Are Your Employees Engaged?

Are Your Employees Engaged?


Here’s why that question is ridiculous, and what you should really care about
Employees who are engaged increase productivity by [insert percentage].”
Highly engaged organizations report [insert percentage] lower turnover.”
Engaged employees drive higher profits and help reduce costs.”
So you want your employees to be more engaged, right? Statistics don’t lie, and there’s a reason “engagement” is the new buzzword. After all, if everyone’s talking about it, they must be on to something.
Eventually, we’ll figure out that employee engagement is the new change management. It has a murky definition, one that morphs in accordance with the interests of those promoting it. The statistics, as a result, are borderline useless, and the more they are repeated, the more empty they become. Just like the “70% of change initiatives fail” figure that’s been floated without questioning since the 1990s, the “truth” that employee engagement is the “magic bullet” to fix all ills is gaining widespread acceptance while escaping critical examination.
On the surface, it’s hard to argue that an employee who’s engaged will perform better than one who is not. The devil, as usual, is in the details—specifically, what does “engagement” even mean? How far does someone have to get into her job to be considered engaged, and what are the alternatives? Is it enough for her to show up for work and perform her tasks accurately and completely, or does she have to have some metaphysical connection to her role and to the organization? It seems that every person who uses the term has his own definition.
It gets worse when stock employee engagement surveys are used. These presume that engagement is a one-size-fits-all concept, meaning the same thing at one organization as it does every other. For all of the similarities we can find across organizations, though, sectors, industries, and individual entities have their own peculiarities. Does the individual manufacturing widgets need to be intimately familiar with the mission, for example, as would benefit the person running operations in a non-profit, or is following quality control procedures enough?
Moreover, it would seem to make sense that what engagement means to one employee may differ from what drives another. What causes a millennial to meet some mercurial standard of engagement is likely not the same as what keeps the gray-haired, old-school, long-tenured professional enthused, involved, connected, motivated, or whatever the term actually means. This is another reason that employee engagement is a shallow concept—it makes for a great sound bite, but under the covers there’s not enough to provide much direction.
Instead of obsessing over the mystical idea of engagement and striving for some state of affairs that may or not make sense for your organization and workforce, you should focus squarely on what you want, who is most likely to provide it, and how to ensure that they do. In other words, step away from stock measures of employee engagement, and stop trying to be everything to everyone. It’s better to define what you want your employees to do and how you want them to act, and ensure they get what they need to do it. This means:
  • Getting what you need—Defining requirements (“what”), designing appropriate jobs (“how”), determining the characteristics, experience, etc. that are likely to lead to success (“who”), and finding them (“where”).
  • Giving them what they need—Understanding what encourages the behaviors you want—e.g., equipment, incentives, facilities, work environment, opportunities, relationships—and ensuring it’s all in place.
  • Following through—Delivering on promises, and weeding out the low performers. If you’ve defined what you need and provided the enablers, performance is your indicator, not “free coffee, please” surveys.
Of course, this is all well and good for bringing in the “right” new hires, but what of your existing employees? What if they don’t have what you’ve identified as the necessary attributes? Actually, the same principles apply. You can only adapt behaviors when you know specifically what behaviors you want, and how to encourage them. That necessitates knowing what you want people to deliver and how, providing the tools, and assessing performance on actual performance—making the hard personnel decisions when they’re required.
Attempting to fix problems by retroactively attempting to meet some universal-yet-under-defined standard of employee engagement is a losing proposition. More than likely, you’ll be sent in directions you don’t need to go, and you’ll be spending money you don’t need to spend. You can design a qualified, motivated workforce based on your standards and objectives. If you do it right, set up the foundation, and hire effectively, you’ll get the most out of your employees—no matter how engaged someone else’s survey says they are.

Tom Morley has 18 years of experience as an internal and external consultant helping clients in all sectors, across industries, in the US and abroad, to become sustainably cost-effective and achieve their visions.  Formerly with BearingPoint and Deloitte Consulting, his areas of expertise include organization strategies, human capital management, and change acceptance and adoption.  His clients range from small, local concerns to international, multi-lateral institutions, and he has advised leaders and managers of more than 50 organizations to help them realize their goals over the course of his career.

For more information or to discuss your hiring needs, contact Snowflake. Mention this blog and we’ll give you a free, one-hour consultation to get you headed in the right direction!

Searching for Hiring Answers? Start by Asking the Right Questions!

Searching for Hiring Answers? Start by Asking the Right Questions!

“I need a CIO who also has a background in finance, significant experience in the hospitality industry, and expertise in inventory management.  Preferably someone who’s worked in a Fortune 500 Company, and knows basic, applied household cleaning robotics.  With 20+ years in the field.  And oh, I have a tight budget, maybe $100k or so.”

We all need help running our businesses.  I could use an accountant and a business developer, for example.  Maybe you need a CFO, or a CIO… someone strategic, who can also do the dirty work.  Unfortunately, we often can’t afford what you’re asking for… we have $100k, and inevitably the market for what we want demands twice that.  And that’s assuming we can even find someone out there who meets our requirements.

Small firms sometimes get lucky, taking on a person who can do everything they want for a reasonable cost.  These people are the “all-stars,” who can build and maintain your web site, run your technology infrastructure, go out on sales calls, and clean the toilets in their spare time.  We envy the company that’s somehow able to hire the IT-Sales-Plumbing Specialist, because we’d love to have one ourselves.  We seek, but we don’t usually find.

Why do we continue to long for candidates who are either too expensive, or don’t exist? Many companies don’t take the time to think about the labor market before jotting down a laundry list of requirements that may or may not be realistic.  If they did, they would wouldn’t waste so much time and money recruiting people they won’t get, or put operations in jeopardy by hiring someone who simply doesn’t fit.

Before we start to recruit, there are some key questions we need to think about:

  • Do we really know what we need for expertise and experience? What are the minimum qualifications that we can accept to meet our needs, and find a candidate who’s an asset to our organization?
  • Do we need everything right away? Are there “first priorities” that require a subset of the skills we’re looking for, or do we need a person who can do it all, the day she’s hired?
  • How does someone acquire the skills we’re seeking? Is experience the best way to become qualified, or can some capabilities be learned through on-the-job (OJT) or classroom training?
  • Are the needs typically represented in a single individual? Is there any such thing as an IT-Sales-Plumbing Specialist on the market, or should we be looking for multiple people?
  • Can we realistically access the labor market to get the qualifications we want? What will it cost to hire who we’re looking for, and is paying that person our best use of resources?
  • If the market is too expensive, what’s driving up the price? Which of our knowledge, skills, and experience requirements are putting upward pressure on the cost of the potential candidates?

By considering these questions, we open up a world of creative opportunities to get the people we need, at a cost we can afford.  There are so many potential options available when we’ve really thought through what we’re looking for, when we need it, and how it’s most likely to be “packaged” in the labor market.  In effect, we can shape our requirements so that we have a better chance at getting the right resources, without “breaking the bank.”

Then, instead of going for the “home run”—holding out for the ideal person—we look at alternatives such as:

  • Splitting our requirements into multiple, easier-to-fill roles
  • “Hiring down” for immediate needs, and developing skills through training
  • Carving out expensive requirements and contracting them out
  • Moving some responsibilities “in house” to staff we already have
  • Designing part-time roles for highly specialized, expensive skills
  • Using interns or volunteers, if possible, to meet part of the needs

With apologies in advance to the feline, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, after all! We shouldn’t feel like we have to find the perfect match for the things we need done—there are often equally effective, cheaper ways to get the right people.  It takes a little bit of advance planning and analysis, but for every problem, there’s a cost-effective solution.  It’s up to us to find it, and it starts with asking ourselves the right questions.

Tom Morley has 18 years of experience as an internal and external consultant helping clients in all sectors, across industries, in the US and abroad, to become sustainably cost-effective and achieve their visions.  Formerly with BearingPoint and Deloitte Consulting, his areas of expertise include organization strategies, human capital management, and change acceptance and adoption.  His clients range from small, local concerns to international, multi-lateral institutions, and he has advised leaders and managers of more than 50 organizations to help them realize their goals over the course of his career.

For more information or to discuss your hiring needs, contact Snowflake. Mention this blog and we’ll give you a free, one-hour consultation to get you headed in the right direction!

9 Leadership Behaviors That Lose Employee Trust and Respect

Leadership is hard, and all leaders screw up. I know, it sounds crazy, but it’s true. Even Steve Jobs made some colossal mistakes. Occasionally, we all show that we’re human, that we are sometimes winging it, and that we don’t have all the answers.

One of my favorite leadership experts, Seth Godin, explains that for leaders, it’s uncomfortable to say, “I want to go over there, and I’m going to be responsible for getting us over there, and no one has ever been over there, and I’m not sure how to get over there, but let’s go.” To make our visions a reality, we have to gain the trust of our followers.

Since we’re so dependent on others to move forward, it’s important to recognize the behaviors that will disengage and alienate your supporters. Here are the 9 most polarizing, destructive behaviors leaders can exhibit.

  1. Inauthenticity.

Authentic leaders stay true to what they believe. According to  Harvard Business School professor and authentic leadership expert Bill George, authentic leaders remain true to their values and mission even in the face of difficulty.

They don’t waiver simply because it would be easy to do so. They can be entrusted to show up in the same way, every time, because they operate from a place of total honesty. Employees know when leaders are faking it.

  1. False promises.

Leaders must be careful about the carrots they dangle to motivate their employees. If a leader makes a promise, his or her employees have every right to expect follow-through.

So often, leaders share ideas in the heat of a conversation, not realizing that employees are taking every word to heart. Marshall Goldsmith’s What Got You Here Won’t Get You There explains that when leaders offer suggestions or ideas, employees hear them as commands or promises.

Failing to deliver on a promise — no matter how large or small — will violate the trust of employees.

  1. Ambiguity.

Employees require specificity when it comes to communicating direction. Ambiguity signals two things: 1) lack of clarity regarding direction, and 2) secrecy.

Both of these impressions drive mistrust and skepticism. The clearer you can be regarding your vision and direction, the quicker you will engage others.

  1. One-way communication.

In traditional, hierarchical organizations, information flowed from the top down, through a tightly controlled funnel. Employees simply did their jobs, and received the precise information that leadership wanted them to have.

Today, employees have a powerful voice. In healthy cultures, they are empowered to contribute ideas and observations. Employees have valuable feedback and want to be heard.

There are many ways to create a culture of two-way communication, including routinely soliciting anonymous feedback, and addressing it in Town Hall meetings. Your employees are your single most valuable resource for insight into what is happening in your organization.

  1. Personal agendas/ego-driven leadership.

Leaders require thick skins to power through setbacks and negativity. They also require strong self-confidence because of the non-believers who question their abilities, and would find pleasure in seeing them fail.

However, leaders have to check their egos at the door, and ensure they subjugate their own personal agendas to the greater good of the organization. This may be one of the most difficult behaviors to eliminate because it requires a lot of self-awareness and honesty about personal motivation.

  1. Anger.

There is no place in leadership for uncontrolled anger. It conveys fear, disrespect, lack of control, and lack of concern for those who are on the receiving end.

It is true that the stresses that accompany the leadership journey are intensive and potentially debilitating. However, it isn’t our employees’ responsibility to be our emotional sources of support, which is why it’s essential to seek out healthy options and communities of support to release or share our frustrations.

  1. Refusing to delegate/empower.

Leadership is a team effort. When employees join your organization and support your vision, they bring experience and skills that can move your strategy forward. It can be difficult to release control, knowing that others may not do things exactly as you would.

However, one person — or even a team of leaders in a growing organization — can’t complete all tasks.  Effective delegation enables you to stay focused on what you do best, and what you love most.

Delegation not only expands your ability to get things done, and creates redundancies within your firm; it also tells your employees that you trust them. Employees want to know they are making impacts and contributions. They want to feel needed and empowered.

  1. An attitude of superiority/lack of appreciation.

Employees see their bosses and the C-level community very differently from they way they see themselves. In companies, there is a line of demarcation between leadership and the rest of the company, even if they leaders don’t intend to create such a division.

As our organizations grow, it’s easy for us to get disconnected from our employees. We have to be intentional about  creating appreciation strategies. It takes the entire system to make the company function well, and we must constantly be re-recruiting our talent internally to keep everyone engaged through gratitude and appreciation.

  1. Playing favorites.

One of the most demoralizing leadership behaviors is favoritism. While every organization has “linchpins” who are essential in holding the company together, ideally organizations should aim to be “process-centric” rather than “hero-centric.”

When companies revolve around a handful of heroes, the remaining employees can begin to feel that they are disposable. To minimize dependency on heroes, companies must invest in the creation of processes so that if key people leave, there is minimal disruption on operations.

In summary…

Every leader, in the course of their leadership, will invariably display one or more of these behaviors at some point. After all, we are all human, and leadership is hard.

The most important aspect of continuous improvement as a leader is self-awareness. The more self-aware we are, the more successful we will be at recognizing these destructive behaviors and correcting them, so that we may build our best organizations, and live our best lives.

Do You Know How to Write a Job Posting that Will Attract the Right Candidates?

By Jennifer Brown, Founder and CEO of PeopleTactics

Job postings are an advertisement and like any other advertisement their purpose is to get someone interested and to take action. Job postings should 1.) spur a candidate’s interest, 2.) help the candidate determine if they are a good fit in terms of the position’s responsibilities and qualifications as well as your company’s culture and values, and 3.) encourage the qualified candidates to send their resume.

Some elements of well-written job postings include:

  • A brief summary of the position.
  • A summary of your company and what makes it special. Include a description of your company’s services/products, clients, and core values.
  • Information about the ideal candidate in terms of their qualifications (e.g., skills, knowledge, experience and education) as they relate to the position and your company. This could be in the form of an “about you” section of the job description. For example:
    • You are friendly and outgoing.
    • You are able to manage your time effectively.
    • You enjoy working independently.
    • You have experience in and enjoy giving presentations to small groups.
    • You have a degree in information technology.
    • You have at least 5 years of experience as a graphic designer.
  • Key job roles and responsibilities.
  • The benefits offered…be sure to include things that are unique to your company and its culture. For example,
    • Job satisfaction they will receive from helping service your clients,
    • The fun they will have working in your office, and/or
    • Job skills they will develop through your training programs.Your website address.
  • If you are a Government contractor or sub-contractor, the required Equal Opportunity Employer clause (see the OFCCP website for more information as requirements differ based on your affirmative action obligations). As a matter of standard practice, many companies who are not contractors often include the clause “Equal Opportunity Employer” in their postings.
  • Instructions for applying for the position.

After you have drafted your job posting, re-read it to be sure it paints a realistic preview of the position, is free of typos, and professional looking. After all, the job posting is often one of the first introductions a candidate will have to your company and you don’t want the ideal candidate to bypass it!

If you need help writing a GREAT job posting, email us or give us a call at 571-587-5615.

PeopleTactics works with small business owners to prevent and solve Human Resources problems that can drain them of their time, money and energy.

To learn more, please visit PeoopleTactics website.