Archive for the ‘Team work’ Category

What’s killing Employee Engagement and how to deal with it?

May 23, 2016

JFK once said « Things do not happen, they are made to happen » and Mark Hurd, CEO of Oracle may have been thinking of JFK when he chose Employee Engagement as the topic for his address at the opening keynote session of Oracle HCM world in Chicago recently (see The Compelling Case for Employee Engagement).

Employee engagement deals of course with how deeply an employee connects with his/her company and how willing he/she is to « go the extra mile » to get the job done well.

make it happen text write on paperWhen employees are engaged, they think not just “what’s in it for me?” but “what’s in it for us?”.

Employee engagement is of course a “hot potato” for all organizations the world over as between 30% and 50% of employees declare themselves to be disengaged to greater or lesser degrees, depending on the Survey and the region.

So why did the CEO of a global High Tech company chose to handle such a “hot potato” in such a public way?

Engagement: a Productivity driver!

The reason is simple. Mark Hurd chose to discuss engagement, because he considers the topic as not just a noble gesture but a real « productivity » mechanism that contributes directly to the company’s bottom line. And Mark Hurd was ready to admit that increasing engagement from 70% to 80% at Oracle would deliver around 2 Billion USD in savings! That’s a huge impact!

«The team with the best help for their business model usually wins », Hurd continued and we all know that to win outside, you have to win inside. Of course, over the past few

Employee Engagement

years, due to the economic downturn, many companies have compensated for sluggish growth by cutting costs. But as Hurd reminded his audience, there is another way to cut expenses: “raise employees’ productivity and get more output for the same investment”. As Hurd said, “more highly engaged employees do more work, do better work, care more about your customers, they perform better and so does the whole entity”.

Not just a Millennial issue!

What’s more, it is not a generation thing with millennials being somehow more disengaged than Generation Xers or Baby Boomers. As Hurd pointed out, all generations seek more or less the same things, have more or less the same expectations and are more or less engaged.

So what drives Engagement?

So what do employees expect? What drives higher engagement and what can we do to influence these drivers positively?

Research on Employee Engagement identifies many key drivers of employee engagement. Below are a few of those key drivers and some suggestions on what we can do to live up to JFK’s words and make things really happen rather than wait for them to happen! Some of these actions may well be on the Oracle Engagement Action Plan!

1)Company Purpose

Not surprisingly, engagement is not only about money!

Today, employees want to be paid fairly but they also want to work towards a greater

Do work worth doing

purpose and to do work that really matters. At its core, a company’s purpose is a bold affirmation of its reason for being in business. It conveys what the organization stands for in historical, ethical, emotional and practical terms. No matter how it’s communicated to employees and customers, a company’s purpose is the driving force that enables a company to define its true brand and create its desired culture. Quite often however, companies don’t formulate their purpose very well and fail to communicate it from top to bottom of the organization.

More importantly, often, there may be a disconnect between the company’s Purpose and the behaviors demonstrated lower down in the organization. Action speaks louder than words and a bold company purpose has to be backed up by coherent behaviors within the organization. Not only Talk the talk. Walk the talk!

Some key suggestions:

  • Clearly formulate the Company Purpose and communicate it to the organization top down.
  • Start at the Top! Express the Purpose in terms of some key top-level business and management behaviors expected of senior leaders and encourage them to walk the talk!
  • Organizing round tables throughout the organization between managers and employees to define simple meaningful behaviors that express the Company Purpose at local level.
  • Include these behaviors in leadership and employee learning and development programs.
  • Build these behaviors into the annual appraisal process and indeed in the ongoing discussions between managers and employees.
  • Recognize and reward employees who demonstrate these behaviors in positive ways and share with the organization as a whole.

 

2) Company Strategy and Direction

If you don’t know where you are going, you may end up somewhere you don’t want to be and most research shows that employees need to have a clear appreciation of where the company is going and how their own actions are contributing to business results.

This means cascading strategy in a simple, pragmatic way and ensuring that employees’ operational objectives are connected to overall strategy.

Some key suggestions:

  • Make Employee Engagement a strategic objective and define the key KPIs to measure improvements to employee engagement. Hold managers and HR accountable for reaching Engagement targets and monitor on a regular basis.
  • Of course, use all the classical methods to share and update the company strategy: Annual Kick Offs, monthly All Hands, newsletters, intranet, etc.
  • Use the annual appraisal process as a tool to translate the strategy into actionable SMART goals at operational level and to ensure employees connect what they are doing to overall strategy and goals with the help of their managers.

 

3) Leadership

Employees don’t leave companies. They leave managers!

Most research shows a clear and critical link between an employee’s level of engagement

Leadership diagram

and his/her relationship with his/her manager. The better the relationship, the higher the engagement. Employees expect today a positive, mentoring type relationship with their managers and more importantly, expect more autonomy, more opportunity to express their opinions and contribute to decision making more frequently and directly.

Some key suggestions for leaders:

  • Today, employees expect to have a voice! Empower your team members. Explain the strategy and how it translates for your unit in operational terms, encourage your team members to propose their own objectives and discuss with them as and when these objectives need to be aligned.
  • Employees expect regular feedback so meet your team members regularly. Discuss whatever needs to be discussed and position yourself as a coach who wants to help team members achieve their goals. Be hard on the issues, not on the people.
  • Employees need to feel trusted so be transparent and share wherever possible information that helps them understand the business.
  • Delegate and control: delegate responsibility but always control and hold team members accountable. More empowerment means more accountability.
  • Lead by example and walk the talk.
  • Seek first to understand before being understood!
  • Invite your team members to offer solutions and you will find they will have a lot of ideas.
  • Promote a no-blame, continuous improvement approach. If team members can express opinions, admit mistakes and seek to improve, they will be more confident and engage more readily.
  • Say thanks regularly and not necessarily with money.

 

4) Relationship with peers

Most research suggests that a positive work atmosphere and good relationship with peers is critical to employee engagement.

The better and stronger these relationships are, the higher the level of engagement. And the best way to promote great relationships is to develop great teamwork!

Some key suggestions:

  • Ensure clarity of purpose – Employees must know what they are trying to accomplish, why, how well, and with what priorities and constraints both as a team and individually and where the two intersect.
  • Ensure clarity of roles – Talent and responsibilities must be well-matched so employees feel challenged but with a fair shot at excellence.
  • Ensure clarity of process – Employees must understand how the game is played, know where things stand, know how they can best contribute, believe decision-TEAM - Together We Can Manage, acronym business conceptmakers are informed and fair, and believe they can influence the process if things are going awry.
  • Recruit eagles and teach them to fly in formation! On boarding is critical and engage with new starters as of day One!
  • Use the annual performance review as a way of updating on roles and responsibilities and on monitoring skills required to do the job on an ongoing basis.
  • Encourage Cooperation and not Competition. Reward cooperation as much as possible because effective teamwork delivers exponential results above anything star performers can do!
  • Keep things simple and put people first.
  • Defend your team in times of trouble. It’s a great way to build trust. All for one and one for all! When things go wrong, examine first the process and see how the team can improve together.

 

5) Continuous Improvement

Research consistently shows that engaged employees not only want to do a great job today but want to improve continuously and expect their organization to promote a continuous improvement culture.

One concrete way of promoting a continuous improvement mindset is by constantly seeking employee feedback and involving employees not only in identifying the problems but also in offering the solutions.

Some key suggestions:

  • Promote a culture positive to feedback. Deploy an annual survey of course but don’t wait for the once in the year audit results to find out what employees think. Seek feedback frequently and multiply the channels for obtaining feedback.
  • Feedback is a gift. Engaged employees want to contribute and care about what they are doing so accept the feedback, however critical it may seem. Don’t seek to punish or reprimand and don’t prejudge why employees respond the way they do. Take the feedback as it is.
  • Involve managers, team members and HR not only in analyzing the results but also in defining the action plans together so that all parties are part of the solution not the problem.
  • Recognize and reward teams for continuous improvement suggestions that are implemented successfully and share throughout the organization.

 

6) Career development

Engaged employees have high expectations with regard to how their careers are being developed and want to believe they can grow with the organization.

Some key suggestions:

  • Use the Annual Performance Appraisal as a Career Plan for each employee and to discuss strengths and development needs, roles and responsibilities, how to stretch the employee in his/her current role, what roles the employee can target as a career step and what skills are needed to succeed the move. Set loose career goals with each employee and discuss progress year on year.
  • Promote a learning and development culture. The annual performance review is the best place to set some SMART learning objectives for each team member to help him/her progress on his/her career plan.
  • Learning doesn’t only need to be classroom based and can also involve coaching, new assignments and responsibilities, special projects, etc.

 

7) Compensation & Benefits

Most research shows that employees expect to be treated fairly compared to their

Equity theory business diagram illustration

colleagues in terms of compensation and benefits and expect decisions concerning compensation and benefits to be taken as objectively as possible.

However, research also suggests that while compensation is a contributing factor in employee disengagement, it is rarely a critical factor, especially when it comes to deciding whether to go or stay!

Some key suggestions:

  • Be transparent on the process. Explain the rules upfront to all employees concerning how compensation & benefits plans are built, how salary increases and bonus awards are decided, by whom and with whom, when and where and give employees the opportunity to share their expectations early with their managers before decisions are finalized.
  • Train managers of course in the fundamentals of Comp & Ben and how to discuss with employees the salary review process.
  • Promote a “Total Compensation” approach which highlights all the different components of the employee’s compensation and not just base and variable.
  • Don’t forget other Benefits because Base pay is not everything and research often shows that employees are ready to forego a raise for a good perk such as a health plan or retirement plan! Research also shows that for most employees, pay and benefits do not pay a significant role in decisions to change job. Culture and values, career opportunities and senior leadership have a more direct impact on employee satisfaction and therefore on employee retention! Food for thought.

So lots to do and great challenges indeed to reinforce employee engagement from a leadership and organizational point of view.

Of course, employees have their own part to play in developing their engagement levels and we’ll discuss in a later blog.

Like the painting of the Eiffel Tower, it’s a never-ending battle but one that is worth the effort and investment!

What do you think?

Building Synchronicity: Some tips to help managers and team members build a One-Team mindset!

January 29, 2009

“No wind is favourable to he who knows not where he is going!”. We owe this maxim to Seneca, Roman politician, statesman and stoic philosopher and this maxim still applies today to all interested in the question of effectiveness, especially if you consider effectiveness through the lens of the annual appraisal process.

All companies have an annual appraisal process of one form or another and all HR managers in charge of managing this process constantly seek to improve the process and make it more effective.

To my mind, the key way of making the annual performance appraisal process effective is by applying Seneca’s maxim so that the appraisal process is considered not as a way of evaluating past performance but as a way of setting the direction towards future performance. Managers and team members should have a few simple rules in mind before they sit down to perform what some consider to be a chore.

However, even more important is the nature of the relationship between manager and team member. To produce effectiveness, managers and team members need to go beyond the process and synchronize their relationship so that both adopt effective winning behaviours and mindsets to form a winning team. Here are some rules and tips to help managers and team members synchronize in a one-team way.

Rule 1: Know where you’re going
Simply put, the first rule in performing the annual review effectively is knowing where you both want to go. This seems common sense but quite often, managers and team members don’t take the time to set a clear course of action together at year start and spend all the time reviewing what went wrong the previous year. This is because some managers see the process as an evaluation of past results and indeed, the name given to the process “annual appraisal process” or “annual performance review” reveals the spirit in which some companies and/or managers promote the process.

One of the consequences of promoting the process as an evaluation of past results and rear view mirror approach is that managers and team members wait and wait and wait until the end of year to review results. Given that they perceive the process as a type of exam, anyone who has ever sat an exam will always remember that you only correct the exam at the end of the examination period and not while the person is actually answering the questions. However, if the goal is to build a winning mindset between manager and team member, the purpose should be to ensure that all the questions are answered correctly and not to see who gets 100% of the questions right. That makes a big difference.

Rule 2: Focus on future results, not on past performance
Managing performance and especially performance effectiveness is not about looking in the rear-view mirror and telling someone where they went wrong in the hope that in the coming year, they will correct their behaviour. Such a view is like shutting the stable door when the horse has already bolted! Because at the end of the day, the team member will have underperformed and everyone loses: team member, manager, company. The goal is to set a course of action for the team member to follow and to ensure he/she has all that is required to chart a course to success. That’s another big difference.

Rule 3: Think Win-Win
If we consider that the goal is effectiveness and higher performance, results should always be positive and therefore, the annual review should be focused on future results and what course of action the team member should take to achieve those results, how the manager can support him to deliver to expectations, what means and resources he needs to deliver. This means that the manager should be constantly working throughout the year to build a win-win partnership to support and coach the team member so that he/she can implement the course of action effectively and reach the desired goal. This means that at the end of the year, the discussion on the previous year’s performance should be very short and there should be no surprises, given that manager and team member have worked throughout the year in a win-win partnership to deliver the results. That again is another big difference.

Rule 4: Think long-term performance!
To help team members deliver effective performance, managers need to focus not only on the short term but also on the long term. This means setting some objectives which will not deliver immediate results but which will take on board the team members own personal career development objectives. Focusing only on the short term may be good for the manager but not good for the business long term if the team member doesn’t have a perspective which extends beyond the immediate horizon. It won’t be good for the employee either who needs a long term view on where his career is going. Thinking long-term reinforces the link between manager and team member.

Rule 5: Seek to empower
Peter Drucker defined efficiency as doing things right and effectiveness as doing the right things. In an ever-evolving business environment, team members must be more and more proactive and adapt objectives according to changes so that they are not only doing things the right way but doing right things. It’s no good doing things right if those things no longer meet business needs. Effectiveness therefore involves making choices and prioritizing actions between different competing and/or conflicting goals. Managers must constantly empower team members to make these choices and be responsible for these choices because if not, the ship will lose its “manoeuvrability” and flexibility if everyone has to wait for the captain to decide. Again, if team members understand that they can decide for themselves nd their managers trust their decisions, this will reinforce synchronicity and shared sense of purpose.

So in the light of Seneca’s advice, here are some tips for participating in the annual performance review for managers and team members in a synchronized way:

Tips for managers seeking to synchronize with team members:

1) At year start, set a clear direction for your team member through some SMART objectives where:
S = specific
M = Measurable
A = attainable and ambitious
R = realistic
T = Time-focused

2) Think Win-Win. The purpose of the discussion is to plan ahead so that the team member understands:
– Where he/she is going
– Why he/she needs to go there (link to team objectives and business objectives)
– How he/she will go there (what resources he needs, what training & developmen will help)
– Who will help him/her get here (what objectives he shares with other team members, roles & responsibiliies)
– What obstacles he/she needs to avoid (the do’s and don’ts, the dangers and risks, etc.)
– What support you as manager will provide along the way
– Don’t forget that what counts is the quality of the relationship and the partnership with your team member and not blindly following the process.

3) Clarify roles & responsibilities: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts
– To be effective, team members need to see the bigger picture. They need to know their own objectives and also those of team members

4) Give constant feedback throughout the year
– Constantly give clear feedback to the team member as the year progresses to align the behaviour to expectations
– Constantly update the team member on changes to company/team objectives so that the team member can adapt course of action accordingly
– If company strategy changes, don’t hesitate to change the objectives, even if this means starting again.

5) Be decisive
– Don’t wait until it’s too late to realign objectives. A quick “bad” decision is always better than no decision. A quick “bad” decision can be corrected as you go. A good decision taken too late cannot.

6) Explain the rules of the game: you build the road as you go
– Managers often take for granted that team members understand the rules of the game. In a future-focused approach, team members need to understand that they need to work continuously with managers as the year progresses and that the road is built as they go.

7) Empower team members to act within the scope of their responsibilities
– Encourage team members to act within their area of responsibility
– Promote a no blame culture
– Reward risk taking. It’s better to act and correct as you go than not act for fear of failure
– Remove obstacles to action
– Condemn openly all individual strategies which encourage risk avoidance or “sitting on the fence”.

Tips for team members seeking to synchronize with their manager

1) Be proactive:
– Seek to understand the company and team strategy
– Don’t wait for your manager to set your objectives. Propose your objectives and be ready to defend them.
– Be flexible. If your manager sets other objectives, accept them gladly while seeking to see the bigger picture.

2) Be SMART
– Seek to get SMART objectives from your manager with clear deliverables and deadlines. Know where you’re going.
– Don’t forget your day-to-day activities which need to be done and are the bedrock on which smart objectives are set.

3) See the bigger picture
– Clarify your role and responsibilities with your manager
– Seek to understand the team objectives and how you contribute to team objectives

4) Think short-term & long-term
– Balance short-term objectives with objectives which are more long-term. Producing short-term results are no good if it means sawing the branch on which you are sitting.

5) Seek to develop you skills aligned to business needs
– Seek to develop your skills through training, coaching, support from your manager, new projects, by doing
– Set personal training and deveopment goals which support short-term and long term business objectives

6) Think Win-Win
– Everybody wants to win and nobody sets out to fail. It’s in your manager’s interest for you to win. Seek to set up and maintain a win-win partnership throughout the year.
– Constantly update your manager on your progress, formally or informally.
– Be transparent and open. Don’t keep your manager in the dark.
– When in trouble, get support early. Don’t let a small problem become a big one.
– Remember that what counts is the quality of the partnership between you and your manager. Don’t execute the process blindly. Seek to maintain a positive relationship with your manager.

7) Seek to be empowered
– Seek and accept responsibility for results.
– Don’t be afraid to decide. A “poor” decision is always better than no decision.
– Don’t sit on the fence. Participate actively.
– Seek to help your team members achieve their objectives.
– Propose solutions, not problems.
– Update your manager continuously and seek out his support. There should never be any surprises.

So a piece of advice first offered more than 2000 years ago is still relevant today. Empires come and go, civilizations change, cultures change, technology changes but the need for adopting effective behaviours remains the same throughout the ages. Above all, effectiveness through the annual performance review process requires managers and team members to synchronize their behaviours and mindsets so that they adopt together a win-win relationship. The annual appraisal process is important in driving results. What is even more important is the quality of the manager-team member relationship and how both synchronize together to build a One-Team partnership.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going!

January 24, 2009

When I was in university, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” was a favourite saying of one of my professors and this saying seems to me very pertinent in the current global crisis. I’ve read many articles and comments about what type of new leadership skills are required to face the challenges in a downturn and this search for a new leadership skill set surprises me.

To my mind, the question is not what new leadership skills are required (as if the leadership skills in the “pre-crisis world” are no longer adapted to dealing with the current situation). In my opinion, leaders simply must demonstrate the skills they are supposed to have had all along and front up to the challenges of defining and implementing the long term solutions.

Indeed, what good is leadership in sunny, blue sky weather? When times are good, you don’t really need leadership and you rely on good management to keep your ship on course. However, when the storm hits, you need leaders who can draw certainly upon all their experience but above all draw upon their character and courage to plot a course to safety.

Just as you can only test character under trying conditions, so you can only really test leadership in difficult circumstances and now is the moment for leaders to demonstrate their leadership skills by stepping up to the plate and showing their true mettle.

Indeed, throughout history, times of crisis have always been windows of opportunity for those who have had the vision and the character to see the difficult times as an opportunity to take responsibility, roll up their sleeves and get to work. For those looking to develop their leadership, perhaps the opportunity has never been greater to demonstrate that they have what it takes.

What’s more, if we accept that leaders are made, not born and if we accept that in the current crisis, what is required is leadership and not management, then we can accept that the current crisis will help us develop our leadership skills if we have the character and courage to rise to the occasion and build our leadership skills as we go. So paradoxically, rather than trying to identify who has the right leadership skill set to fit with the current crisis, we should be trying to identify who has the right character and determination to rise to the challenge and is tough enough to get going when the going is tough!

As Warren Buffet said “It’s only when the tide goes out that you realize who’s been swimming naked” and this axiom applies also to leadership. The current crisis doesn’t reveal a need for new leadership skills but simply reveals perhaps that some leaders didn’t really have the leadership skills we thought they had and now is the time for those with the real leadership skills to seize the day.

However, what the current crisis does reveal is that we need to rethink how we identify our leaders because as the saying goes, you can’t solve a problem with the logic that caused you the problem in the first place. What is most surprising with regard to the current crisis is how so many commentators fail to challenge the role poor leadership has played in generating the current chaos. Many commentators blame the system, the processes, the organisations, even point out specific individuals such as Jérôme Kerviel or Bernie Madoff but not many seem to focus on the poor leadership globally which allowed so many errors to accumulate in the system over time until the system finally collapsed.

This is indeed surprising.

Human Factors theory teaches us that accidents only happen when a certain number of factors in the process are aligned together, allowing the error chain to be connected. To prevent these factors from aligning, multiple safeguards have to be built in for each factor and the process must be monitored through effective leadership so that these safeguards are constantly tested and judged to be operational.

It would seem that these safeguards were gradually eroded over time for each factor due to poor leadership and this poor leadership led to systemic breakdown.

So I think it’s time to rethink our leadership model. Leadership is based on character which reveals itself in a willingness to confront difficulty and build the road as you go. Leadership is not an attribute or an inherent trait but an action. A leader is only as good as the next challenge he or she confronts.

As the current crisis shows, the bad news is that so many people in leadership positions viewed leadership as a title or position and as a career asset and not as an intention which can only express itself through action.

The good news is that leaders can be made or rather, leaders can make themselves if we fully understand that leadership is an intention that needs to be constantly expressed through action.

Click on the link below to hear Richard Branson’s view on Leadership in a crisis.

Richard Branson discusses leadership in a crisis


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