You’re complacent and that’s why your engagement sucks

Employee engagement is endlessly chatted about; as a HR professional I find myself in a constant chatter about how we can “move the dial” on employee engagement results. How do we get people to “live the values” and feel connected to their work. Then come the ideas about wellness and team building – activities HR can roll out in the hopes of making people feel better about their work.

But this is only one of the many components and until we get that then we are going to go in circles. Engagement comes in three parts and it’s the third part that for the most part we can all say, we arn’t so great at..

Hygiene

You need to pay people accurately, administer their entitlements and keep them safe. If you don’t do this (or have some focus on improving these areas) then what the hell are you doing.. Seriously, why are you in business?

Team

You need to give people a sense of shared purpose and connection – not because HR said so, but because let’s get real people like to know what the heck they are doing and why

Teams need to get along, understand what they are doing and why it is important. You need to hire the right people, have sound people and task managers (note I mention ‘sound’ you don’t need the worlds best leaders, just people who arn’t evil and want to be good at their job).

Individual

Okay, this is where we become unstuck. This is about the one-on-one interactions with team members by managers. These interactions are more that task driven directions, it’s about reverse engineering motivations to get what you need out of that person. This isn’t soft and fluffy. This is legit – if you know what someone wants, what they value you will get more out of them.

If Sally has 5 kids and it means a lot to her to be able to leave at 4.30pm during the holidays and you make that happen for her, then you have won the type of loyalty money can’t buy. You provide her with the benefit and then you engineer to get something in return, maybe it’s discretionary effort on a project.

If Jenny is just motivated to grind away and get a promotion, then early finishes don’t mean anything to her, she wants coaching and stretch assignments – so you get her to help you on a project you are stretched to complete.

You’ve got to know what people actually want. Often it’s not things, it’s an experience. It’s cheap as chips, but it takes time and attention and that’s what we don’t have enough of.

How do we get managers to give it time and attention?

Senior managers, HR whoever it is for you need to engineer a workplace where it is natural for the time and attention to be spent in that way. That’s pretty broad, but an example is roping it into a performance review / management framework. You can’t guarantee  that they are going to execute, but you have created the attention and time for it to take place, so you are halfway there.

How do I get managers to reverse engineer motivation?

Ask you managers to go on a treasure hunt. Over a month or two they need to find what motivates each employee (that directly reports to them) within their team. Then phase two is workshopping how they can use that to their advantage. It’s not overly complicated, but it requires time and attention, the two things we are really short on these days.

What about my corporate wellness program?

Nothing wrong with that, it’s a tool, a branding opportunity, seeing how common it is, it’s almost a hygiene factor these days – we expect it. Discounted health insurance and memberships show you ‘care’ enough to have them, but not all people get a kick out of it, it’s not an individual you get me program. So don’t toss it, you need it, it’s just not going to solve anything overnight.

 

The below diagram sums up my feelings on the topic at midnight last night. 

IMG_2942

Advertisements

Looking back and forward 2014/2015

In 2015 I’m going to investigate more about….

  1. Communication design principles. Colour, layout, design, writing style, advertising and connection through visual media – I have to know more! I think there is a real gap in the skill set of HR practitioners in this space. Knowing how to craft communications with excellence beyond a boring poster format and policy speak, I think is the most important skill I will continue to learn this year.
  2. Performance Review Cycle Success – that old chestnut. Generally the feel is that people hate completing them, managers hate running them, the administration is a headache and most models don’t scale well.. there has to be a better way.
  3. Photography. This connects with number 1, but I am going to become really good at taking my own photos to communicate my message and the message of projects I am working on.
  4. Mastering Personal Knowledge Management. I think I have a handle on these principles but I want to get really clear on what this means and looks like in practice, then see where I can take it at work and play.
  5. How to find where top performers come from and what (if any) similarities there are between them. I want to go beyond just identifying top recruitment strategies and training and development pipelines. I want to look at top performers and see what they are made off and what similarities there are between them. Maybe it will be a simple finding, maybe not. Either way I am excited for what knowing this information can bring .

In 2014 I learned…

  1. If you haven’t clearly articulated your Vision, Mission and Values the going will get tough. This applies to work and play, if you can’t articulate what you are about, getting stuff done right will be a challenge. I watched the VMV being crafted for multiple businesses this year as well as the articulation of my own. You can’t make the decisions you need to and it’s difficult to make a bold and courageous move without knowing what they are either.
  2. The power of Vision, Mission, Values and “Getting It”. This year I heard the statement “getting it” become part of how we describe performance. People getting it, not getting it for example “they are technically excellent but they just don’t get it”. Getting it is about someone’s ability to really hook into and feel the vision, mission and values of a business and design their ideas and the way they work to fit into that model. Those that Get It are your future leaders, the ones that you will inspire and will continue to inspire you.
  3. Being resilient ensures growth and success. Keeping your cool in tough situations, managing set backs, being told you can’t or that you are not good enough are constants in every part of your life. If you are able to keep going in the face of danger, uncertainty and “haters” it will make you a force to be reckoned with.
  4. The job you do and the boss you work for will be equally as important. My experiences and the stories of others have highlighted this fact this year. Some people can tough out the agony of a great position and a terrible manager or vice versa – but I think fundamentally you will leave or become vey unhappy… sooner or later
  5. Intellectual and creative pursuits will make you better at your job. This year I went on my first overseas holiday and had a raft of other experiences that changed my priorities and energised me to think differently. I read more widely, watched movies not found at your local cinema, played with design principles and made a bigger effort to explore the world around me. Indeed this (I think) has made me better at my job and better in life in general.

Happy New Year!

Tell them what they want to hear

Communication is a big-ticket item in most organisations. How should we communicate this message, where should we communicate it, will they read it .. all common questions.Remove any ideas about significant change management where the communication problem amplifies, let’s look at day-to-day comms in organisations, let’s look at the gloriously undervalued employee newsletter. Newsletters should have lots of meaningful pictures, short summaries about the article and then a link to further information. People will select what they want to read and read on if they want to.

When designing our communications strategy (including newsletters) why don’t we tell people what they want to hear? There is a big gap between what we want employees to know and what they actually care about.

When I say what they want to hear. What I mean is crafting the message so it fits into what matters most to them. Use your engagement survey to get this information. If not, you could try this amazing idea called talking to people – cutting edge, I know! I could guess that all employees care about anything to do with their pay, changes to operations (that impact them), and any benefits they can get for free (that they value). It’s about filtering your content through the What’s In It For Me looking-glass.

This isn’t a new idea – this is how news stories work. Commercial news stories are developed to hook in to what matters to you. News stories run with the themes of fear, self-improvement, danger and cute animal stories at the end. So to circle back – commercial media is clever because they know what it takes to ensure you don’t change the station. You need to think this way in your communications. Now, I am contrasting video media and written comms here but the message is the same. Write for what your audience wants to hear and make it fit that model.

Most of this time the development of newsletters will sit with HR or if you are lucky you have an internal comms person. This is one of those times where HR practitioners need to look beyond the scope of their HR skills and delve into advertising and design principles. You can’t continue to write for an audience that doesn’t exist – you’re employees do not care about what you have to tell them, they care about what it important to them.

I will continue to muse over this in the coming year…

OD is just HR grown up

Organisational Development (OD)  is what I consider the younger, cooler, more out spoken and rebellious version of HR. OD is inhabited with HR specialists who said HELL NO to boring HR practices and wanted to take on a much broader view of the business. OD specialists are problem solvers and always ask the question “should it be like this?”  and “why are you doing it that way?”.

The evolution of your HR role into an OD role comes from not blindly accepting the status quo. Any HR professional can lift their game and work in the OD space! In my opinion, you are an OD specialist if your role requires you to work accross multiple business units to make work more efficient and improve the employee experience. OD is about developing an organisation to be bigger and better than it was before. Any time you do this it will invariably require some kind of HR Development experience (whether it be knowledge of legislation, adult learning, change management etc).

If you look at OD through my definition then really I do not see that OD deserves to be a separate discipline. I think it’s just HR evolved and eventually OD and HR will be one in the same.

The days of businesses paying for HR specialists to tick boxes are on the way out. We can outsource that stuff – we are now about solving problems. If you are not solving or working on solving a problem everyday, I would start to question the value you add.

I recently read an article in the Industrial and Commercial Training Journal called – Waking ourselves up! Re-examining the role of OD practitioners – a challenger perspective. I would recommend reading it if you’ve got the time. It is written from the point of view of an OD Consultant and provides a bit of a framework for getting people to be effective OD Specialists.

It talks about the Challenger Spirit – which is about standing up against the status quo and finding out who is blocking the path to change, echoing some of my initial thoughts. Some of the qualities of the challenger include:

  • taking a broad business view;
  • understanding commercial realities;
  • being prepared to experiment and improvise; and
  • causing some kind of purposeful disturbance.

Sounds just like what HR should be doing, right?

Further Reading

lare Southall , (2014),”Waking ourselves up! Re-examining the role of OD practitioners – a challenger perspective”, Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 46 Iss 4 pp. 182 – 187 – http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/ICT-12-2013-0083

Policy snooze stack

I am currently reviewing an induction guide at the moment and I want to ensure that it is the simplest document possible. Only what they need to know, then everything else we can give them along the way. It’s often the simple stuff we actually overlook when someone starts. I have heard stories of new starters not being shown where to store their lunch, where the bathrooms are, how they can access additional uniforms or where they can access their shifts. You know what they got instead – a pile of policies to review and sign.

Snnnnnnnoooooooooozzzzzzzzeeeeeee

So you are telling me that they went through a recruitment process where let me guess, you told them the company was progressive, or exciting, or something else you feel strongly about; then on their first day you sat them down and told them to read a stack of policies. No. No you did not.

There is a better way, but you are going to need to think a little bit harder, stretch yourself and be a bit creative. I know plenty of HR people that tell me that they aren’t creative. Which is crap, because creativity is about taking a concept and changing it up a little bit. We can all do that, we all have something to offer. Use your voice and put it out there.

Build a training plan, try your hand at e-learning development, make a video, create a user friendly checklist, coach your managers. Time allocated to reading documents should not be your new starters introduction to your community.

Let’s make this practice a thing of the past and move towards integrating what needs to be done, in a simple and user friendly way!

Can we fix it, YES WE CAN!