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Tag Archives: employee engagement

Listen Leaders! Show your people you value them

One of the most important elements of engagement is a feeling of being valued.  The problem is that many leaders don’t know how to show that they do value their teams.

When I’ve discussed this essential need of feeling valued, managers often think that they’ve done all they can to make employees feel valued.  “I got business cards made for her”, “He got the raise he asked for”, “I gave the whole team tickets to a baseball game last month,” “I don’t know what more they want.”

The funny thing is when I discuss the same need with the employee, they rarely mention any of these things.  What they want is to be listened to.  I often hear “I’ve been asking for a performance review for months now”, “He’s always too busy for me”, “She doesn’t care about my ideas or suggestions”.

Leaders often make the mistake of thinking that giving employees tangible things will make them feel valued, when what really makes a difference is taking the time to listen to them.

My advice for leaders: Listen!  

As long as your employees are paid fairly both internally and compared to market, that’s not the most effective way to engage them.  And in fact, the impact of giving them a raise will last no more than a couple of weeks.  So save a little money and spend a little time listening to members of your team.

Pic used with permission from Microsoft.

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Do pyjama (pajama for my US friends) days build engagement?

I was chatting with friends the other night and one of them mentioned that morale was poor at their workplace, so they were having a “wear your pyjamas to work” day.

Pic used with permission from Microsoft

Will having a pyjama party actually improve morale?  No way.

In fact, my friend was dreading it, and thought it was somewhat impractical in a work environment where half of the employees worked in a warehouse setting.

Events like this only scratch the surface of employee engagement.  Unless you get to the root cause, you won’t make a long-lasting improvement.  In fact, you could make things worse.  My guess is some people may have fun that day, others (like my friend) may hate it.  Regardless, any positive impact this type of event will have will be temporary.

The trouble is, this is the direction many organizations turn when they want to increase employee engagement.  In a recent study by Aberdeen Group (2004), Employee Events was the most commonly used strategy to improve hourly employee retention, with 68% of companies investing in them.  The same study also found that this had the most uncertain return on investment.

The path to engagement is much more strategic, long-term, and challenging.  You have to engage their Hearts and Minds.

Here are a few ways to start.

Engage their minds:

  • Evaluate your compensation practices.  Are people paid fairly and equitably, both internally and compared to market?  Pay is not a motivator, but it can de-motivate people.
  • Improve your internal communication.  Do people have access to the information they need to complete their work?
  • Ensure that everyone has all of the necessary tools to do their job. Fix technology, provide access to resources.

AND Engage their hearts:

  • What is your organization’s vision, mission, etc.  Do they resonate with employees?  does everyone in the company know where your headed and what their role is in taking the organization there?
  • Take a look at all leaders’ style.  Make sure they’re aware of their strengths and opportunities.  Have them share this, candidly, with their teams.  An introspective look and a leader who is self-aware is much more able to flex their behaviour and engage people.
  • Empower people.  Hire people who are aligned to your vision, train them in your standards, and set them loose to do their jobs.
You can see all of these tactics are a lot more challenging and time-consuming than pyjama days, but I guarantee, if you invest in truly engaging your people, you will see a return on your investment.
 
 

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Fun gets results!

“The most wasted day is one in which we have not laughed”
– Anonymous

Some may scoff at this quote and insert “produces widgets/sales/results” instead of “laughed”, but fun can actually have a very positive impact on your business.   Take a look at successful organizations such as Zappos, SouthWest Airlines, Westjet, and of course, Pike Place Fish Market, where fun with customers and each other are part of what has made them successful.

There have been several studies on humour and fun in the workplace, and while I won’t quote them all here, a couple of points stuck with me:

A survey by Hodge-Cronin & Associates found that of 737 CEOs surveyed, 98 percent preferred job candidates with a sense of humor to those without.

Research by Still showed that a 13 percent increase in morale can lead to a 40 percent increase in productivity.

Check out this website dedicated to making the world a more fun place, created by Volkswagen: The Fun Theory.  Each example proves that fun can improve people’s lives.  I don’t know about you, but if I was CEO, I would be investigating options for integrating fun into my workplace. I can’t wait to visit Sweden and walk up the musical stairs.

I have seen fun in action and believe that not only can it improve morale, but it also improves productivity.  In my roles in human resources in a variety of companies each with unique cultures, I have worked with some great CEOs and we have found ways to integrate fun into the workplace.  Here are some examples of things we’ve done.

  • When communicating a change in policy or rollout of a new benefit, the CEO and HR Director would load up a cart with treats and the letters, and go around the office to mingle with everyone, giving them a brief heads up about what was being communicated
  • Many companies who allow people to go home early on Fridays before long weekends.  Often times, a Leader sends out an email telling everyone to enjoy the day.  One in particular would use fun in her emails, for example, telling everyone that “Spring Fever has arrived, and telling employees that if they were experiencing certain symptoms (like a desire to run in the field beside the office, putting on sunscreen for no reason, etc), then they must leave work at 2 pm.  The teams working for her were certainly more excited about getting a slightly longer weekend.
  •  At meetings or conferences, kicking off after breaks with a “Minute to Win It” game – it only takes a minute, breaks the ice and improves mood.
  • Holding a mini putt tournament in the office – Employees were to work in their departments to create their own mini putt hole, linking it to their function.  We gave them an hour of work time to create it.  Most teams stayed late and came in early to plan and build their holes.  When it came time to play, we extended the lunch hour by one hour, and everyone went around the office, playing all 9 holes, and interacting and asking questions of people they normally wouldn’t speak with.  The morale was visibly higher, and no productivity was lost.
  • Showing a video like “Fish” (I still enjoy it, even after seeing it more than 100 times) to all teams, and having them come up with ways they can have fun at work.  This is where the real magic comes, as employees are involved in creating the culture of the workplace.

The ways in which you have fun in your organization will depend on your culture, but I think that whether you work for a bank, a restaurant, or a manufacturing company, there are ways to add fun and see improved morale and productivity. 

What do you do to have fun at work?

A few links related to fun at work:
http://www.playfair.com/index.htm
http://www.workplaceissues.com/arhumor.htm
http://www.projectmagazine.com/leadership-skills/271-how-to-make-work-fun
 
Pic from Ookaboo user en:Coasterman1234 from English Wikipedia
 

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Serving your Internal Customers

I think most leaders realize how important it is to provide great service to clients or customers. I often find, though, that some organizations forget about engaging and “serving” their internal customers – their employees. In fact, I would argue that the relationship that leaders cultivate with their employees is actually more important than the one they have with their customers, especially in industries where employees work directly with customers.

I recently attended a workshop led by Ari Weinzweig, of Zingerman’s businesses in Michigan.  He spoke about Zingerman’s 12 Natural Laws of Business, and one of them hits this point about serving your internal customers.

If you want staff to give great service, give great service to staff. 

I liked Ari’s way of defining this.  He said “the service your staff gives will never be better than the service you give your staff”.  Zingerman’s leaders use their same principles for serving customers for serving staff:

1.  Figure out what the customer wants.
2.  Get it for them: Accurately, Politely and Enthusiastically.
3.  Go the extra mile. 
 

Guess what?  Zingerman’s has been so successful that even in the past couple of years of uncertain economy, they have surpassed their annual planned sales.  And in 1994, they developed a business called ZingTrain, and have actually added revenue by teaching other businesses about their service model.

What do you think?  How do you and your organization serve your internal customers?

 

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Storytelling to engage your team

I recently had an opportunity to participate in a webinar, led by Anecdote, a consultant firm out of Australia.  Anecdote specializes in storytelling to bring company’s strategies to life, and the webinar was about leveraging storytelling to build engagement.  I have never worked with Anecdote, so can’t tell you much about them but I can say that the stories they shared on the webinar were engaging, and a quick look at their website seems to promise great resources.

A few things that hit home with me, especially with my strong belief that engagement has to target both the mind and the heart:

  • Storytelling leads to an emotional connection and causes people to want to do something
  • Stories remind people of things that happened in their own experience.  To me, this helps them to feel connected to the story in a way that they aren’t connected to data
  • Anger dissipates when people are listened to.  I believe that anger and frustration lead to disengagement, so by listening, we can counteract disengagement
  • Whenever a leader takes action, they are creating a story.  I would venture to say that, in fact, stories are created more by what we do than what we say.  I wrote about this in my blog on Culture being more than a poster on the wall
One of the most prevalent stories that the facilitators mentioned was extremely simple.  They shared the example of a story people told of their manager stopping what he was doing and giving them his full attention.  The simple story of a leader focusing on what the employee had to say told a story of respect, listening, and ultimately valuing people.

 

Another example they shared was from the banking industry.  A senior leader was visiting a branch and noticed that there were several empty meeting rooms.  When he got closer to one of the rooms, he saw a sign on the door stating that the room could only be booked by Managers.  He immediately pulled his team together and asked if this was necessary.  The outcome was that it wasn’t, and he personally removed the signs fromt he doors of the room.  Without having to overtly say so, this leader sent a clear message that hierarchy was not important, in the story he told through his actions.

What sorts of stories do your employees tell about you and your leadership team?  If they aren’t aligned with the culture that you’re hoping to create, how will you change the things you do to engage your team with positive stories?  

Pic courtesy of Flickr user kodomut

 

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