Category Archives: Employee Engagement

Measuring Employee Engagement

Trending seems to be the new buzz word. Today on Twitter, Mischief Managed, Mrs. Wesley, the British Open and Thanking God are all trending. In the world of work, Employee Engagement is definitely trending. 

In a previous position, I managed a large department of 44 people. At one point I had recently promoted members of the team to supervisory positions. Wanting to measure the level of communication and presentation of clear objectives, I sent a survey to all team members soliciting their feedback.  I was pleasantly surprised by the responses (which thankfully meant that I was clearly communicating with my new leadership team – whew).  

If you haven’t solicited feedback from your staff in a while, here are 12 questions  to spark a conversation.  Right Management also has a white paper called How do you engage with, retain and motivate employees? But remember, these kind of questions  can do more harm than good if you don’t take action on any deficiencies that might be uncovered.   


The Power Behind the Power Hour

I recently read an article by Tony Schwartz called, Working Harder Doesn’t Get You Ahead.  

By the end of the article he suggested tackling “your most challenging task first thing in the morning, for 60 to 90 minutes, uninterrupted.” I don’t always have free time first thing in the morning. In fact I usually have my first meeting between 8:00 am and 8:30 a.m.  However, it made me think about the list of Guiding Principles (how we define who we want to be and how we conduct ourselves) that my staff and I created last fall, one of which is, Power Hours – Permission to Focus.

The idea behind the “Power Hour” is to block out a specific amount of time to “power” through a task or project. This uninterrupted time can be an hour or it can be thirty minutes, whatever block of time you need depending upon what you hope to accomplish.  Because this is one of our organization’s Guiding Principals, there’s a great deal of consideration given to an individual who is taking their “Power Hour” and encourage team members to do so often. It’s one way we support each other and tackle those projects that have that looming deadline which appeared out of nowhere.

Let’s face it, our work days are busy enough, so giving your self permission to take a “power hour” may provide you with a bit of calm that we all need in our work days. Try it. Schedule a set block of time on your calendar to focus on your project and power through. You’ll be surprised at how much you can get done.

Four HR Skills Critical in Turning Around a Crappy Culture |

 It’s not uncommon for a company’s culture to change or evolve over time. Your company’s core values may remain the same, but as employees leave and new employees are hired, it’s possible the values of the employees may change.

Assessing your company’s culture becomes a priority.  So, what happens if you’ve evaluated your company culture and you realize it’s broken? How do you fix it?

I recently read a great article by Kris Dunn that talked about four skills an HR department needs to bring to the table in order to implement a positive change.

 I’m not sure it’s just the HR department that needs to possess these skills. Read the article and let me know what you think.

Four HR Skills Critical in Turning Around a Crappy Culture |

What is the “new normal?”

“The world is on the cusp of entering a new reality in which human potential itself will become the major agent of economic growth. Unleashing this spirit and potential will become the ultimate quest that we must seek to conquer, as the world enters the Human Age.”  Jeffrey A. Joerres, Chairman, CEO and President, Manpower Inc.

Can we recover in time for the Recovery?

It seems that most of the expert sources are now in agreement that the recession has bottomed out, and that we’re moving into a period of recovery.  Thank goodness!  Now it’s time to really gear up and jump into the recovery in high gear – we’ve got a lot of ground to make up.

If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’re still working!  Obviously, the acts of becoming and remaining employed involve a great deal more than mere luck, so let’s say instead that you’re one of the fortunate ones.  (This is relevant, so please bear with me.)  Assuming that you’ve been working consistently during the last year or two, the chances are pretty good that your actual workload has  increased, and that the phrase “Do More With Less” has either passed through your lips, your ears or both.  It’s become a mantra, a battle cry and in some instances, a bleak joke. 

Your department just got downsized?  Ha-Ha, guess you’ll have to Do More With Less.  Already pushed to the limit?  Tough.  Suck it up and just Do More With Less!

Here’s the conundrum though: We’ve proven that we can all Do More With Less – but for how long?  Everyone can kick it up a notch in a pinch, somewhat like an athlete getting a “second wind”.  That act can even be exhilarating, especially when it’s teamed with learning new tasks/skills, and stepping outside of your normal duties for the good of the cause. At what point though, does our overall productivity begin to fade into Doing Less With Less?  When in this Do More With Less marathon do we hit the wall and stop being able to put one foot in front of the other through sheer force of will? 

I hope it’s not now ’cause there’s a Recovery looming ahead of us, and we’ve got work to do.

If we’re at a threshold at which job fatigue is about to replace job adrenaline, how do we maintain productivity while allowing for some type of downtime?  How do we recharge the batteries?

My belief is that the answer lies in some combination of 1) strategically adding people to provide some level of reinforcement, 2) temporarily relaxing quotas and/or goals, and 3) building in some type of “active” downtime.

1) People – if you’ve ever been involved in a picnic tug-of war, especially one that lasted for a while, you can picture the immense advantage that one side would have by just adding one more energetic tugger.  In some instances, well-thought out staff additions could provide momentum to help carry you strongly into the Recovery.

2) Quotas – while any organization needs to achieve growth-related goals, this may be the time to right-size those goals to today’s market realities and the fatigue described above.  Even a thoroughbred horse will only go so far so fast without a break, no matter how much you whip it.

3) Downtime – Remaining conscious not to inadvertently add to existing stress levels, team building or fun-themed events may be a way of allowing employees to catch their breath.  Rebuilding positive feelings about the workplace can help to return it to a more vibrant, interesting and socially fulfilling place, rather than it being a hellish sweatshop.

I’d love to go on, but I’ve got to take a break!

What’s your engagement resolution?

Now that 2009 is in the history books, it’s time to turn our attention towards the prosperity we all hope the new year will bring.  Traditionally, this is a time that we confidently look forward and make resolutions designed to better our health, relationships and lives in general.  Maybe you’ll give up the smokes, or drop those extra pounds that have been hanging around for entirely too long.   I wish you the best!

When it comes to your workplace, your resolutions will take the same level of diligence if you intend to succeed.  Chances are, you’ve already been forced to trim down and are as lean as you can be.  The new battle will be maintaining the staff you’ve fought hard to preserve, and keeping them engaged (or re-engaged) as the job market improves and their alternatives increase. 

According to BlessingWhite President and CEO, Christopher Rice, the following steps should be part of your resolution for success:

1. Quit or commit. You need to decide if you are ready for another year leading your company. You have been bruised, so make sure you are ready for 2010. If feel like you are working at Dunder Mifflin, then you need to move along because you cannot lead unless you are fully engaged. Your employees deserve more than a leader who is half-in.

2. Communicate the vision. You need to create excitement and trust in your leadership. You should highlight the initiatives of 2010 and create faith that your company is on the right path. Your employees now have a choice about where they work. The large majority want more than ‘just a job’. You had better inspire them to be part of your future.

3. Talk about careers again. The top reason employees leave a company is a perceived lack of career opportunities. Don’t be fooled into believing that your leaner organization can’t satisfy those cravings. You have more priority initiatives than employees, so there are plenty of opportunities for individuals to build skill sets, acquire valuable experience, or try something new! When you scratch the surface of what people mean by ‘career’ you often find it’s all about meaningful work and personal growth. Today’s careers are built not on promotions but on assignments.

4. Forget about performance reviews. You need to do ‘engagement reviews’. You already got rid of the people who needed their performance ‘fixed’. And when using the right definition, engagement actually covers off on performance: Fully engaged employees are at their peak — of maximum contribution and maximum satisfaction. When you focus on engagement, results — and retention — follow. Engagement reviews are vastly different in tone from appraisals. There is a lot more dialogue, and the manager is more likely to end up with a rating than the employee. Engagement reviews explore:

    a) The strategy of the company
    b) The importance of the employee to the success of the team and the company
    c) What’s important to that employee (overall job satisfaction, meaning at work)
    d) The employee’s career aspirations and growth goals
    e) Focus and alignment of the employee’s talents and goals with critical organizational priorities
    f) Your own engagement and commitment (unless, of course, you aren’t sure of your answer to ‘commit or quit’ above!)

Your challenge: Your employees don’t wear labels that declare their engagement level on their foreheads. And you can’t assume that the chronic complainer is totally burnt out and disengaged or that the team member who never makes waves is fully satisfied and aligned. Engagement reviews enable you to exchange information to ensure that the employees you rely on are connected to your organization’s larger purpose, getting what they’re looking for at work and applying their unique expertise to carve out a successful future in 2010.  See full story…

Now’s the time to start making sure that your organization is as fit as it can be for the year(s) to come.  The journey to success isn’t a sprint, it’s more of a triathlon.  With the proper training and execution, almost anyone can get there.  Me, I’m going to start by working up to ten sit-ups!

Employee Discontent Expected to Reach Crisis Level Next Year

 Employee turnover is expected to rise next year as a new survey shows that many workers are unhappy with their present jobs. Sixty percent of employees intend to leave and an additional one-in-four are networking and updating their resumes, according to research from Right Management. Right Management is the talent and career management expert within Manpower, the global leader in employment services.

Right Management surveyed more than 900 workers in North America and asked: Do you plan to pursue new job opportunities as the economy improves in 2010?
— 60% – Yes, I intend to leave
— 21% – Maybe, so I’m networking
— 6% – Not likely, but I’ve updated my resume
— 13% – No, I intend to stay

“The study provides a barometer of employee engagement in the workplace, with results that might alarm and surprise many employers,” said Douglas J. Matthews, President and Chief Operating Officer at Right Management. “Employees are clearly expressing their pent up frustration with how they have been treated through the downturn. While employers may have taken the necessary steps to streamline operations to remain viable, it appears many employees may have felt neglected in the process. The result is a disengaged and disgruntled workforce.”

Matthews cautions that the best workers are mobile in any economy. “We know that people are attracted by career development opportunities, attaining work/life balance and working for an innovative company culture. If management doesn’t provide employees with these opportunities, then workers are going to take their knowledge and skills elsewhere. Talented staff can change jobs because they can and want to, not because they have to.”

“As leaders, we need to accommodate different lifestyles and work choices and find ways to balance these with business needs to ensure high levels of productivity and performance,” states Matthews. “This influences how organizations attract, engage and retain talent. A segmented, customized and flexible talent strategy is critical to stem the alarming levels of employee turnover anticipated next year.”

Right Management surveyed 904 employees in North America via an online poll. The survey ran between October 19 and November 5, 2009.