Saturday, September 28, 2019

10 Simple Employee Experience Upgrades You Can Implement Today

Every business wants their employees engaged, but employee engagement becomes elusive if certain barriers are not eradicated and specific practices are not implemented. Eliminating things such as walls impeding communication and removing obstacles that stifle creativity are helpful in opening paths for engagement. In addition, adding best practices such as taking specific steps to enhance the employee experience are just as, and maybe more, crucial. But what exactly is involved with creating a great employee experience and how can it be accomplished? 

Simply put, a good employee experience is basically what employees expect when they come to work: engaging, productive, fulfilling and an overall enjoyable work experience. Many business and HR leaders today are baffled by what creating a good employee experience entails. A recent Deloitte Insights report discovered that almost 80% of executives rated employee experience very important (42%) or important (38%), but only 22% reported that their companies were excellent at creating a differentiated employee experience. This is partly due to confusion about what constitutes a good employee experience.

The employee experience begins at the recruitment stage including screening, any assessments, interviews, and job offering, and continues through the entire employee life cycle. It involves making the work environment conducive to the role of the employee. But developing steps to improve the employee experience is more than upgrading the employee’s physical surroundings, though those are beneficial. It is taking measures to ensure that the employee has a good emotional experience as well.

In today’s ever evolving high-tech world, ideas for creating a good employee experience can be almost limitless. It involves having your finger on the pulse of employee’s desires and customizing the work environment to provide the most productive setting. 

As George Dickson points out in Why Employee Experience Matters to Your Customers, “Your investment in providing an amazing employee experience is a clear and visible indication that you're committed to providing the kind of environment that inspires engagement.” For help with increasing your investment, try these10 simple steps to provide a great employee experience and increase employee engagement:

All Aboard
The development of a program for a great employee experience should be considered from before the employee is hired. One of the most important phases in the lifecycle of an employee is the onboarding phase. A Society of Human Resources article found that on average, companies lose 17% of their new hires during the first three months of employment. 

This is a critical time and should be used wisely to teach the employee about the culture and values of the company. According to a Harvard Business Review piece, Google uses an electronic checklist to remind managers to discuss the roles and responsibilities with new hires. Create a similar list or assign a new hire with a peer buddy to show them the ropes and start off the journey with a good experience.

Think Like A Millennial
According to a Pew Research Center report, Millennials now surpass Generation Xers as the largest generation in the US labor force. This means that workers in the 18-34 age range, or those most digitally savvy, account for the most people working today, (about 76 million). To create a great employee experience, we have to provide the tools and resources that most appeal to this audience. 

A way to create a great employee experience is to offer opportunities to see what career possibilities exist. A Gallup Workplace Panel study found that 51% of employees were looking for a new job. The cause for this is thought to be that many Millennials are searching for ways to improve their careers. To curb the trend of job hopping, one new initiative, The Future Workplace Forecast, found that employers can improve the employee experience by allowing employees to use career mobility platforms digitally to test drive new positions and experience new roles and skills. The study discovered that 15% of those surveyed use mobile apps for delivering career mobility. 

Show A Purpose
Employees don’t want to just show and up and perform a task without knowing why they are there in the first place. They want to know how the dots connect. That is why the simple step of sharing the business purpose is so profound.

The Future Workplace Forecast also found that, “Aligning employees around a common purpose at work surpasses even workplace flexibility and mentoring and coaching as the most important attribute for creating a compelling workplace experience.”  Keep your employees informed and in tune with the direction of the organization.

Invest in Overall Employee Wellness
Many organizations are instituting wellness programs, providing Fitbits to keep track of number of steps walked and offering incentives for engagement in health initiatives. These programs help to keep employees healthy as well as lower healthcare costs for the company.

But the financial health of the employee should also be a concern. An article in Forbes magazine discusses a recent survey conducted by SunTrust Bank that found that 70% of working adults felt a moderate to high level of financial stress in their lives. To counter this trend, SunTrust started an online financial fitness program to help employees save $2,000 in an emergency fund and to also take one paid day off to set up a will, construct a family budget, or going through the online Financial Fitness program offered free to all SunTrust employees.

Solicit Employee Feedback
If we don’t know how to create a great employee experience it is likely due to the fact that we are not assessing the very people who can help us develop a useful and successful program. 
A recent Deloitte Insights study found that 22% of companies survey employees quarterly or more often, 79% survey employees annually or less, and 14% never survey employees at all. Thankfully, there are several apps in the market today that can assist with soliciting and organizing employee feedback. 

Applications such as 15five that allows employees to take 15 minutes to answer a survey from their managers, and managers only need five minutes to review, and Cultureamp that provides tools to run performance reviews and pulse and culture surveys, and managers can review data based on the lifecycle stage of their employees, are just a couple of the many apps available that wise business leaders can use today.

Listen to Employees
Although artificial intelligence, apps, and digital devices are helpful in creating a great employee experience, it is always important to actually listen to your employees and process the feedback. Not only will you receive great ideas for improving the business, but by listening, you enhance the employee experience. 

In a Society for Human Resources article titled Attention to Retention: Keeping Your Best Employees, Sarah J. Meusburger suggests, “Seek input from employees on ways to drive efficiency while maintaining or boosting the quality of the product or service that the company sells… If employees feel that they are being listened to, they are more likely to share ideas and may suggest something that improves a significant aspect of your business.”

Improving the employee experience requires that leaders not only put tools in place for acquiring feedback and ideas from employees, but also showing employees that they are heard and appreciated.

Make Collaboration Easier
Most employees are not fond of working in a silo. They want the interaction with their peers and to be a part of something larger than themselves. Taking steps to make collaboration part of the organization’s culture can improve both company loyalty and the outcome of projects.

Providing access to tools such as company social media sites and cloud-based collaboration tools makes team work easier. Face-to-face teamwork is ideal, but the use of tools such as Flowdock, a group and private chat platform and Slack, a platform offering instant messaging, file transfers and powerful message search, are just two useful collaboration tools available for use.

Provide Opportunities for Growth
Providing opportunities for growth for employees isn’t just about pointing them to the next promotion opening. It is also about providing avenues for them to stretch their mental capabilities. According to Neuroscience News, employees get excited about learning.

Give employees resources that will help them to learn and grow. Partner with a local university that offers classes, provide team training sessions, start a company library, and pay for online classes are just a few ideas you can begin implementing today to improve the employee experience.

Think Customer Experience
To be successful, businesses look at providing the best customer experience possible. Research has shown that in order to provide the best customer experience, employees need to experience what it is like to be a customer. Last year the Tempkin Group reported that companies who deliver outstanding customer experiences have one-and-a-half times more engaged employees than those ranking at the lower end of the scale.

In other words, learning who your employees are. This starts with empathizing with and understanding all employee’s needs, desires and expectations. This is possible through the use of touchpoints throughout the employee’s lifecycle using smartphones, apps, like those offered by Salesforce, and other digital devices. 

Give Specific Rewards
I was brought into a company as a consultant to get rid of what the owner described as a “union mentality.” As I interviewed various top executives I discovered that one of their main concerns was the shilly-shally way in which the owner rewarded the company’s workers. The owner believed that a yearly cruise was enough to satisfy his employees.

Unfortunately, the employees didn’t see it that way. Though they enjoyed the cruise, there was no individual recognition given to employees. There was no announcement made, no pat on the back, no high-five for the many successes each employee played a role in.  

To create a great employee experience, give due recognition and call out the person by name. Make them a star for a day or more. Show respect and appreciation for a job well done.

The Need for a Great Employee Experience 
From recruitment to termination of employment, job candidates today are assessing future employers and making quick judgments about what life will be like for them in the organization, and how employment with a specific organization will impact their daily lives financially, professionally, and emotionally. 

Creating a great employee experience isn’t just about the layout of the work environment, health care benefits, and the employer’s contribution to a 401K, though those are important. But it is more about discovering what is needed to provide the most fulfilling experience emotionally for the employee. It is caring as much about the employee as we do about the customer, even more.

In a Harvard Business Review article, Denise Lee Yohn states, “If a company attends to its employee experience with the same level of discipline and intention that it does to its customer experience, the results can be seen across the board.” In other words, the most vital contribution as a business leader is to design, build, and maintain the right employee experience so that it encourages and produces the very best in your team throughout the organization.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

5 Ways Management Styles Impact Employee Engagement

It’s been said that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers. In fact, according to a Gallup study found in Gallup’s 2017 “State of the American Workplace” report, 51% of currently employed adults in the US say they are searching for new jobs or watching for new job opportunities. Some of the ship-jumping is due to a particular management style. That doesn’t mean that a particular management style will be detrimental to your workforce, but that some management styles may not be conducive to a specific workforce. The ultimate goal we should all strive for is to adopt a management style that improves and increases employee engagement. 

Another Gallop study found that 70% of employees in America are disengaged costing the US over $550 billion a year in lost productivity. To keep employees engaged requires looking at the workforce and work processes from various angles to determine what could be improved, changed, or simply eliminated to increase engagement. Many areas such as empowerment, work environment, reward processes, and others should be analyzed regularly. But one area of concern that can be dealt with immediately and that will provide instant results is that of management style.

The Styles
There is a time and place for all management styles. No style is good or bad, but it is how and when leaders use them that determines success or failure. Understanding your style of management and how it impacts employee engagement is crucial to the success of your company. What follows are five management styles typically associated with almost every type of business. Depending on where you research, most of these styles can be found to some degree in every organization—and some have different headings, but most styles fall under these categories.

1. Autocratic Management Style
The Autocratic Management style is a traditional style that has been around for a very long time. This is the style that allows the manager to have a “Because I told you so” mentality. In some situations, (think military or firefighting situations), that demand error-free outcomes, this style may be applicable, but is not the best style to be used on a full-time basis. The Autocratic manager doesn’t solicit input from others, believes rules are extremely important, and dictates all methods and processes. 

An example of an Autocratic style is Sam Walton when he was building his Walmart empire or Football legend, Vince Lombardi when he coached the Green Bay Packers. This style was needed to for streamlining processes and growing a customer base. The Autocratic style has proven useful in factory settings or jobs requiring few skills, but is being phased out as managers realize that to create future leaders within the organization, a new approach should be adopted. When the Autocratic style is used in small does as in heavy industry or emergency room situations, it is useful, but it should only be added as cumin is added to dishes when cooking—too much will ruin the outcome. A full-time Autocratic style is not conducive to increasing employee engagement. Use it only as needed.

2.) Coaching Management Style
With the Coaching Management style, the manager helps team members develop their strengths to improve performance. It is a style that motivates employees by providing tools and resources for growth. This is a favored management style for improving employee engagement. The Coaching manager says, “Let me show you how it’s done.” Examples include Tony Hsieh’s style of guiding his customer service team at Zappos or as how philanthropist Andrew Carnegie  coached Charles Schwab who would become the first president of US Steel.

To build Coaching Management style muscles, you must first build a relationship with your team members. According to a Harvard Business Review article, you must, “Understand that before you start coaching, you need to develop a culture of trust and a solid relationship with the people you will be coaching. In spite of your good intentions, all the techniques in the world will make little difference if those you are trying to coach don’t feel connected to you in some way.” 

3.) Affiliative Management Style
First coined by Daniel Goleman in 2002 as one of his six leadership styles, the Affiliative style manager strives to create harmony, not just between employees and manager, but between employees. This style of management puts people first and tasks second. It is very useful in creating a more harmonious work environment and therefore opens pathways to a more engaged workforce. 

Obviously less stressful than the Autocratic Management style, the Affiliative style has its downside when performance falters or a project deadline isn’t met. It’s hard to keep the friendly, people-first attitude without accountability when profits are down. This style is good to adopt and one way to increase it’s effectiveness is to strive to know your team members to build a relationship that caters to their needs while still getting the work done. Former manager Joe Torre of the New York Yankees displayed a Affiliative style recognizing the various contributions of individual players, and then expressing his gratitude for the talent regardless of the score in the game.

4.) Participative Management Style
The Participative Management style encourages the involvement of employees in analyzing problems and strategizing for solutions. Because it creates a sense of ownership in the company, instills a sense of pride and motivates employees to increase productivity in order to achieve their goals, employees become more engaged in their work. Employees feel like they are a part of a team with a common goal, and this builds their self-esteem and generates pride and loyalty.

If you want to create an atomic reaction in your employee engagement, embrace the Participative Management style. To do this, you must be secure in your position and be willing to relinquish some control to your employees. This is not as easy as it sounds, especially if you’ve held most responsibilities close to your chest for a long time, but with an open mind and trust in your team members, it is worth letting go.

When Steve Jobs was fired from his job as leader of Apple, he was using an Autocratic style of leadership. When Jobs was brought back in the mid-1990s, he had adopted a more Participative style, hiring experienced leaders and giving them room to shine. With this style, Apple soared to even greater heights than before as employees were empowered to make decisions. 

5.) Pacesetting Management Style
The last style, as listed in Daniel Goleman’s book, Primal Leadership, is Pacesetting Management style. This is when the manager sets the pace for others to follow. Employees get motivated to keep up with the manager increasing performance and output to please the manager. As Goleman writes, “The [pacesetting] leader holds and exemplifies the highest standard of performance. He is obsessive about doing things better and faster and asks the same of everyone. He quickly pinpoints poor performers, demands more from them, and if they don’t rise to the occasion, rescues the situation himself.”

This style serves as a great motivator, except for the ones who fall behind and is short-lived in serving as a style to increase employee engagement. The long term effect leaves employees exhausted and feeling as if they’ve been pushed too hard. It is useful in spurts and is dependent on the culture of the organization and the products or service they provide. Use cautiously and when conditions are right for an all-out sprint. 

With the Pacesetting style, Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric comes to mind. Welch vowed to lead by example and encouraged his executives to do the same. Welch, nicknamed “Neutron Jack,” managed by what he coined the four E's of leadership: energy, energize, edge, and execution. Employees followed his pace and GE excelled to greater heights under his leadership. 

Hone Your Style
Obviously, the manager relationship is highly correlated with employee engagement. A good marker for the strength of the relationship is how comfortable an employee is approaching their manager with any type of question. One example of this is the subject of goal setting. A Gallup survey uncovered that when employees were asked to rate their feelings on the statement, “My manager helps me set performance goals,” 69% of employees who replied “strongly agree” were considered engaged in their work, compared to 8% who responded “disagree” or “strongly disagree.”

The best managers seem to adopt a few attributes of almost every style listed above to use in various situations. But management styles don’t just happen. Managers are made, not born so consistent quality training is required to hone a great management style. According to a Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) article, “Developing and Sustaining Employee Engagement,” middle managers need to be trained for their roles, empowered by being given larger responsibilities, and more involved in strategic decisions. The article states that if an organization's executives and HR professionals want to hold managers accountable for the engagement levels, they should:

  • Make sure that managers and employees have the tools to do their jobs correctly.
  • Periodically assign managers larger, more exciting roles.
  • Give managers appropriate authority.
  • Accelerate leadership development efforts.
  • Ask managers to convey the corporate mission and vision and to help transform the organization.

The Goal is Engagement
Learning what styles are most effective for engaging your workforce is crucial to your organization’s success. In a recent Forbes article, former Navy SEAL, Brent Gleeson writes that great managers ensure they acquire and develop great talent by getting the right people on the bus and making sure they are in the right seats. They actively prioritize engagement. Their team’s activities align perfectly behind the mission narrative of the organization.

The management style you use is dependent on the circumstances you and your team may be encountering at that precise moment. Is there a need to be more autocratic because a crisis is at hand? Is it time to set the pace or is this a situation where coaching is more appropriate? Often managers must take on the role of a chameleon and change colors as the environment changes. But the ultimate goal of any style is to aim for 100% employee engagement.

Read more of my management articles at

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Being In Great Company

Being in Great Company: Finally Reaching the Elusive Goal of Employee Engagement

Every company worth its salt is trying, or should be trying, to reach 100% employee engagement. If you’ve been a business leader long enough, you know there are no shortages of how-tos for obtaining the elusive goal of employee engagement—even if successful for only a small percentage of the workforce. There are books, classes, seminars, and consultants all offering touchy-feely practices for getting employees to fall in love with their jobs. 

Unfortunately, they don’t work, at least not for the long term. According to Gallup’s recent State of the Global Workplace report, 85% of employees in the US are not engaged or actively disengaged at work resulting in an estimated $7 trillion in lost productivity. The antiquated use of annual reviews and performance appraisals still in use today don’t, and cannot, provide the interconnectedness of work and life that employees crave today, and the newer, feel-good BandAid tactics only inflame a stronger desire for something real. 

The 25 years experience I’ve received as a business writer and consultant qualifies me to say that this shilly-shally approach to employee engagement sucks. It simply doesn’t work on a permanent basis. Any positive changes to the workforce in respect to employee engagement hasn’t gone deep enough to impact company culture, nor has it provided any real solutions to the core of the employee where it counts—the heart. 

And what about culture? Are the yoga classes, free afternoon massages, and game rooms really what constitute a company’s culture? I’m certain it helps employees relax and offers the impression that the company does care a little about work-life balances. But a recent Harvard Business Review article titled, “Why Employees Leave Great Cultures,” addresses the issue of companies that espouse to have a great culture, but really only provide window dressings. In fact, for many organizations looking to hire in the current great economy with a shortage of qualified applicants, bragging about culture appears to be the winning tagline. 

Prolific Approach to Employee Engagement
Thankfully someone has provided a breakthrough in achieving the ultimate goal of employee engagement. Louis Carter, founder and CEO of Best Practice Institute, has come up with a new approach to employee engagement that addresses the emotional connection employees have with one another, and with supervisors, managers and leaders that truly alters their perception of the workplace. It is a highly effective approach that is generating more fruitful employee experiences and producing greater engagement. 

Generating a disruption of sorts, Carter has provided a revolutionary approach for getting employees— in fact everyone—deeply engaged in the work they perform. In his new book, In Great Company: How to Spark Peak Performance by Creating an Emotionally Connected Workplace, Carter shares how it is possible to create a business atmosphere where employees are so deeply engaged that they love performing at their job everyday. 

Carter’s background as an organizational psychologist, an executive coach, author of several books on best practices and organizational leadership, creator of a social networking, on-demand learning and benchmarking tool, with accolades from Human Resources Executive Magazine and others, I figured he was probably offering more in the way of solutions to achieving employee engagement than others have in the past. He has after all provided HR solutions to the C-level of companies like Kimberly Clark, Roche, Shire, the Pentagon, and the United Nations. 

Finally, after all these years and with a glimmer of hope, I had to connect with Mr. Carter to see what is new that others may have missed in the chasing of the dream of having employees who are engaged in their work:

What exactly is it like to be in great company?
You are In Great Company when you experience a spark that lights your desire for peak performance. The spark originates from the deep connection you feel to the people you work with, with your customers, and with your company. It is reaching down to the emotional core of the individual and touching that part of what drives them.

Okay, I’ve heard similar strategies in the past. How do the concepts of In Great Company differ from others who have tried in vain to reach a certain level of connectedness?
In my research for In Great Company, I polled 100 major executives and asked, “What is the one factor you need most from an employer to motivate your job performance?” Nearly 90% answered that the one thing that would motivate them is a feeling of respect. After more research and probing for a more defined definition or reason for respect, and asking executives to define respect for me, the number response is that respect is directly related to a feeling of emotional connectedness. 

But how does one achieve that emotional connectedness? 
You can achieve emotional connectedness by aligning your values with colleagues you work with. By making an effort to collaborate, co-creating a positive future for all involved, everyone begins focusing on achievement while giving respect to one another. When this dynamic is set into motion in the workplace, everyone becomes aligned and willing do whatever it takes to preserve and grow the business together. 

What are some tips you can give for getting this emotional connectedness started in any organization?
There are several I have listed in my book, In Great Company, but I’ll share three with you here. The first one key element for generating emotional connections is to make an effort to align values. This happens when leaders and peers all embrace common values, and everyone holds each other equally accountable. Some everyday practices include things as simple as doing what you say you are going to do or speaking truth instead of avoidance, and more conceptually complicated practices such as living the values and ethics the company espouses. Good leaders know that the people they are leading are watching them. They are watching how you work, how you talk, and if you walk your talk. Honesty is the very first step to aligning values.
The next key element is showing respect. Companies such as Starbucks, SolarCity and Warby Parker, are just a few that practice this concept. Studies show that employees who are respected love their workplace and are more engaged and loyal to the organizations where they work. When employees are treated with respect, they have more confidence, they provide more of themselves to the company, and they reciprocate in kind. 

The third key tip is create and communicate a positive future. Employees are in great company when they work in a environment that communicates positive messages about where the company is now and where it wants to go. People want a reason to get up and go to work other than a paycheck. Because positivity is a cultural contagion, emotional connectedness is achieved when individuals use it in a unified way to move forward together to achieve results. 

I like the concepts you offer, but wonder why so many organizations are not applying these ideas.
There are many organizations that are adapting these concepts to their businesses, and I mention several in the book. But unfortunately, there are still many that believe a salary increase, bonuses, flextime, and other perks are the where they should place their efforts. Of course, some of these things do work, but only temporarily. They don’t offer long-term solutions for obtaining 100 percent employee engagement. They are simply intermediate pacifiers that offer little in the way of emotional connectedness. 

My brief interview with Louis Carter uncovered some great pointers to achieving complete employee engagement. On the surface, many of his ideas appear basic in nature, and that’s probably because we have heard them at one time. For example, I remember as a child learning some of these same principles. But as we mature into adults, we all know how silly it is to think that showing respect for one another, working with a positive attitude, and aligning values for ultimate achievement really is. And that’s where the problem lies….

When we get too big for our child britches, we think we have all the answers and that leadership has to be complicated. Mr. Carter reminds us that to lead well, we must get back to the basics. Being human and working with humans means we must apply the human touch to leadership. If we want to create a great company and have our employees work in great company, it will do us well to heed this advice and apply these concepts. 

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