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. 

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4 truths every new networker needs to know

I remember walking into my first networking event – Ahhhhhhh! I remember wanting to stand against the wall and eat my free pre event snacks until the session started. Totally normal response by the way, after all these people in the room are actually out to get you and want you to leave (sarcasm).

So these are my top 4 truths about networking. Remember them next time you encounter a bout of omfg-strangers-are-scary anxiety.

Truth 1 – Striking up a conversation (or joining in) is easier than you think

It’s a networking event, 99% of people are there to talk to new people. Keep it simple, I find introducing yourself and saying “Hi I’m Cherish, nice to meet you” and asking a basic question such as “have you been to one of these events before” a good way to kick off the conversation. But what if you walk in and everyone is already in groups chatting away? Then what? Firstly if there is a snack station, go get yourself a drink, you always want to keep one hand free so you can shake hands and interact. Approach a smaller group (1-3 people) and introduce yourself. Admitting you don’t know anyone at the event is a cool ice breaker, we all know those feels and chances are the group chat you have joined.. well they met each other about 2 minutes ago as well.

There will always be the 1% of people who are just not very nice to socialise with. I’ve met them, the type of people who will give you one word answers and show very little interest in your kind attempts to get to know them. They are the exception not the rule. If you find a sunshine hater just excuse yourself and move on (more about that later).

Truth 2 – You do have something to offer 

If you have listening ears then you have something to offer. Networking is not actually about fanning people with business cards and moving on. It’s not about pitching your product, well at least not directly. It’s about getting to know people and that means a bit of active listening. Being in the moment and asking questions. There is nothing worse than talking to someone who is constantly looking away from you, looking for god knows what. It just sucks.

Be there in the moment and treat that person well. You don’t have to have all the experience to be interesting to talk to, ask questions, be interested. Stop worrying about your story and focus on understanding the experience of someone else. Naturally you will end up sharing a bit about yourself, without the stress of needing to say or be something you are not. You don’t remember people because they are experienced, you remember them because they were interesting and fun to talk to. You do have something to offer, always.

Truth 3 – It’s okay to excuse yourself from the conversation to talk to someone new

Sometimes you might spend an entire event talking to one person. But most of the time that’s not really what you are there for. It’s okay to excuse yourself from the conversation to talk to someone new. This is BY FAR the hardest part of networking because you want to leave on a positive note. This article, this one and this one all have a number of strategies you can use. You will need to build some courage, particularly if you experience a bit of social anxiety. But it is okay to detach yourself and speak to other people, that’s what you are there for.

Truth 4 – It get’s easier

With every event you attend it will get easier. You may have the urge to drag someone along that you know to every event. If so have a game plan, otherwise you will end up standing in the corner talking about your weekend and internet memes instead of getting out there and experiencing all the fun of meeting new people.

Go on, you rock – get out there!


Image credit – click here | Quote credit: click here 

The Rise of the Learning Ecosystem!

Last week I participated in an awesome Tweet Chat facilitated by @ozlearn, where I got the opportunity to introduce myself to new ideas (and new people) regarding Learning Ecosystems.

What’s a Learning Ecosystem?

Well that’s something that the chat couldn’t really agree on….

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I can’t help but think that a Learning Ecosystem really sums up the discussion at the moment regarding the future of L&D. The move to the facilitating the learning community and not the ownership!

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It appears to be a mix of everything! Creating an environment and system of sharing and collaboration, giving “power to the people” to create their own learning experience.

Is this a new idea?

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Pretty much everything would come to a standstill if we didn’t have a Learning Ecosystem. At its core it’s about sharing knowledge, transferring skills and developing others, formally and informally – that’s not business specific that’s origin of civilisation specific! So the question is not whether it exists, it’s how do we improve it and grow it it’s something amazing within the workplace.

What does it all mean?

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I almost started this sentence with “time to start thinking”. No, what I need is a plan. I am making a plan about how we bring this to life (with a particular interest in retail). I had started this activity a few weeks ago using this gem of an article by Jane Hart as a starting point to map activities. What’s steps are you taking – write a blog and share it with the community !! I’d love to read it, after all sharing is all part of the Learning Ecosystem.

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Special thanks to those mentioned in the post for contributing to my learning journey and to all the awesome participants of the Tweet Chat!

Creativity, stories and surprises – why I dig HR!

People ask me why I like working in HR. They seem to think my days are spent listening to complaints and disciplining people – which is actually a very small part of my role (maybe I’m the exception not the rule?). So I thought for a bit of Monday happiness I’d share my favourite parts of working in HR.

#1. Creating weird names for things.
I reflect fondly on the many times my HR counterparts and I sat around brainstorming the name of the next performance appraisal, what theme the next quarter should have or how we could inject the fun into policies. It’s like unleashing your inner Advertising Guru, only you are not a guru you just hope that some random catchy genius will find you.

#2. I get inspired by cool people
Some humans are just god-damn amazeballs. Some of my highlights include: watching people complete qualifications for the first time; seeing coaching in action; getting to know team members with big ambitions; and witty rhetoric with employees who really live the vision, mission and values. I tip my hat to all of you.

#3. I’m continually surprised 
Whether it be people sharing their funny anecdotes with me, or making epic work faux-pas, the laughs never stop when you are in the know when it comes to people’s lives – such a privilege.

#4. I am get great pleasure and amusement out of HR stereotypes
I adore the way HR is portrayed in mainstream media, it’s glorious! The first time I saw Archer and was introduced to the character of Pam I laughed myself silly. I enjoy a good joke about HR and most of all I enjoy smashing the stereotype.

Happy Monday!

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The Graduate Problem

I see posts on LinkedIn across all kinds of forums asking for advice on how to land a role. People offer the same advice:

  • apply for internships and volunteer your time
  • network with others in the profession
  • get your resume and LinkedIn checked out by a professional

This is what I call a band-aid fix. Why isn’t it part of all university degrees to actually do this stuff?

Universities are places where you learn to think, critically analyse stuff, recite the work of others and train your body to live on Red-Bull. Whilst the shift is happening across the education sector to move towards practical application, we have lost sight of why we go to university.

Our job seeking graduate problems started way back high-school when we are learning about what it means to establish a career. Preaching higher education is misleading, we need to be talking about the attainment of quality skills for the role you want to get. University is cloaked in prestige, your first job will not be.

University should be about building a portfolio of tools and experiences that you can sell to prospective employers. Instead, university students are walking into a flooded job market struggling to land their first role.

There will always be the portion of grads who have what I call the gift.

They are driven, resilient and were smart enough to make the university system work for them. They pursued every opportunity and made their own.

They chose part-time jobs that allowed them to pursue volunteering or gave them the ability to practice at least of some their talents. These grad won’t have too many drama’s – they will be employed pretty quickly. These are the grads that ignore the BS recruitment advertisements that say Graduate Position – must have 3 years of experience. They apply anyway because they are champions, when others will get discouraged.

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But there is a robust portion of grads who don’t have this gift. It’s not their fault, we are all different with varying levels of confidence. University needs to stop selling the prestige and start delivering on the promises of education. Help students help themselves. It’s a two-way street, you can’t do the hard work for the grads, but there is little point in a degree if you can’t get a job. Grads paid between 20-50K on average for that degree, the least you could do is provide better transitional services.

I’m not saying don’t go to uni, I went to uni and I wouldn’t change a thing, I enjoyed my uni experience. But you need to be prepared to make it work for you.

Youth and young adult employment impacts us all. Without getting all down in economics we know the lower the unemployment rate the better off we are as a country. This only scratches the surface of what is a real social and economic problem driven by an education system struggling to remain relevant.

Humanity, Culture and Performance Reviews

Performance reviews spark fear in the hearts of managers and employees everywhere. You know you are going to have to sit down with your manager, justify your performance, possibly get a reality check and hear some tough feedback. All accross a boardroom table, fully documented and ready to submit to HR. Then if you don’t improve we are going to use that document to support the performance management process, right through to termination. No pressure people – Performance Reviews are supposed to be fun.

I believe that people working together in communities who share common goals are naturally cooperative and collaborative.

We want to to help each other to support enduring success. Naturally collaborative and cooperative people are always receiving feedback and training, the group calls out bad behaviour and the team develops. Think about a team that you know that works really well together, could be a sports team or a family setting. Do they need a performance review to keep them on track. No, no they don’t.

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Perhaps the reason we dislike performance reviews as we know them is because they actually grind against the core of how we want to operate.

We want to be open and honest, receive feedback in the moment and not feel we need to defend ourselves on paper. We just want to do our jobs, receive feedback and contribute. Performance reviews often symbolise a one time a year feedback session fraught with frustration and headaches for everyone involved. Despite the various attempts to rename it as a performance discussion or one-to-one they are what they are. The manager providing feedback disguised under the veil of a two-way-dialogue.

Performance reviews are personal. Sadly there are lots of managers who don’t connect with their team. If your team doesn’t respect you they certainly don’t care for your feedback. They are most likely job hunting as we speak. We have all been there, working for a manager we don’t trust and couldn’t really give a toss about. Yet they are entrusted to give performance enhancing feedback. Seriously. Just. No.

I don’t have the answers about how to improve this dismal situation and neither do the 1000000000 other HR articles on the internet so it seems.

I do think however that the secret to the Performance Review is closely tied to how and who we recruit and the culture we develop. For some reason, I think if you can truly nail recruitment and you have the right people in the right roles at the right time, trained to do the job they are in.. and they enjoy their work – Performance Reviews will just happen and they will be a natural part of coaching and mentorship.

Right now the situation for many is a performance review system to satisfy performance management needs. Not a process born from a great culture.

Quick thoughts on the TAE

This week I have been completing my TAE (Certificate IV in Training and Assessment). The mix of students includes mostly technical specialists who will be involved with training others in the workplace. I have had some considerable conflicts with the content and that was to be expected because I have experience and have been exposed to some really great thinkers in the workplace learning space. However most people in that room will not get that experience and as a result will go on to think of themselves as trainers, not facilitators who tell people what they should know, not facilitators for understanding.

One personal opinion of the trainer was that she doesn’t like online learning. Okay I can understand that – and there were nods around the room from people who felt the same. The problem with online learning is that term itself is so broad and online learning has been done poorly in many circumstances! I like online learning in the right circumstance. I have had some awesome MOOC, video tutorial, discussion board and social media platform learning experiences. But that wasn’t explored in this course, it’s outside the scope but we have 1000’s of people completing the qualification each year who don’t understand that online learning is a critical part of the new world of work and ignoring it, saying you don’t believe it works without seeing what good looks like is a massive gap in the skills of our workplace learning facilitators.

The TAE is the baseline qualification for people wanting to be “qualified” in designing and delivering competency based training in Australia because it links to understanding how our Vocational Education and Training system works. So it does have it’s place. But I question whether it really prepares people to truly support an engaging and dynamic learning experience at work, maybe the qualification isn’t about that, but shouldn’t it be part of it?