Employee Engagement: What Do the Jobs Data Have to Do With It?

Jobs Data

Is your organization ready for the economic turnaround?

History has demonstrated that it is a follow-the-leader kind of world. As soon as some employers begin to hire, others will follow.
The unemployment rate fell to 8.9 in February, 2011; the best since 4/09 and the most rapid growth in 28 years.

A second precursor to hiring is the fact that American companies are swimming in cash. The Federal Reserve says that corporate America has $1.8 trillion in reserve.

“More than half of employers reported they are in a better financial position today than they were one year ago,” said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder.  “2011 will usher in a healthier employment picture as business leaders grow more confident in the economy.

88% of executives said they were very or somewhat confident in their company’s prospect for business growth in 2011.
More than half of those surveyed said it was challenging to find skilled professionals (Robert Half, Q1, 2011). Does this mean that corporate raiding will increase?

It is already happening in Silicon Valley.

Employees

Exercising Options

Since many employees have been holding onto their jobs for dear life, once the job market opens up, they will inevitably begin to explore their options.

Will your talent management strategy meet the challenge to retain your high performers?

Results from Ernst & Young’s Global Talent Management survey reveals a strong connection between investment in talent and market growth. “Global organizations must understand the needs and motivations of their people in order to provide opportunities that not only appeal to different generations and cultures, but help the organization retain the necessary skills and competencies it will need to emerge stronger down the road.”

According to an additional analysis of the data, leading organizations with better integrated talent management programs experience return on equity (ROE) that averages 38% higher per year over a five year period.

Employee Engagement

Here are some tips to increase employee engagement:

1. Focus employees on their strengths:

“… employees who have the opportunity to focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life.”

The 5 Dynamics model and assessment helps find natural strengths. It is based on neuroscience – how our brains are wired. It takes less than 5 minutes to complete online. This robust suite of tools generates an individual report, a team profile, a coach report and a colleague report. This powerful resource provides you with a quick way to identify strengths and set people and teams up for success.

2. Invest in your Team Leaders:

As our workplaces begin to recover from the recession, we must find ways to give our teams a reason to believe. It all starts with the team leader. Our emotions are contagious; if the leader is optimistic, teams will be as well. The shocking part of the employee engagement challenge is that research indicates that only between 17-29% (depending on the research) of employees are actively engaged in their job at any one time.

This would mean that if you were a soccer or football team, only 2-3 players on the tam would be 100% committed to the team’s success. It seems to me that the odds of winning a game with only 2-3 players 100% committed to a team’s success are pretty slim!

Supporting project managers, team leads, team supervisors and managers is an essential ingredient to increasing team commitment, productivity and outcomes. Investing in team building strategies does make a difference. If your teams are dispersed, don’t wait until they get together face-to-face.

You may need to engage in virtual team building experiences.

3. Support the needs of your employees:

We hear a lot of moaning and groaning about Gen Y from those in other generations. But the reality is that unless organizations adapt their culture and policies t the needs of the younger generation, they will go elsewhere to contribute their skills. Gen Y is looking for a workplace that supports flexibility — the anytime, anywhere workplace that measures results and not face time.

Flexibility also supports working families and those who are attending classes or caring for elders. The Working Mother’s 100 Best Companies outpaced the S&P 500 in terms of stock growth.

Thus, there is a direct correlation with support for employee needs and company profitability.

4. Remember, if you lose valuable talent the consequences are costly:

It costs between 150-200% of a person’s salary to replace an employee. This includes the cost of recruiting, time interviewing, the loss of productivity if the job is vacant as well as the learning curve time for a new employee to become optimally productive.

Institutional knowledge walks out the door.

The manager and team all spend time away from productive work to integrate the new employee.

If a respected employee leaves, it may cause others to consider leaving as well. The brain-drain may begin to hemorrhage your business bottom line.

So what are you doing to keep the best and brightest in your organizations? Do you have aq plan that helps managers understand the strengths of the people they lead? Do you work with those strengths to align them with your organizational objectives? What are going to do the next 6 months to insure that your top talent stays around and helps your bottom line? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Barb Miller is President of Artemis Management Consultants
She specializes in executive coaching, leadership & team development

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High Stakes: The Employee Engagement Game

This is a second in a series of articles on what employers can do NOW to avoid losing the engagement game.

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Here is
Part One | This is Part Two
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The stakes are indeed high: as I reported earlier, turnover can cost between 150%-250% of an employee’s salary not to mention the cost of morale as valued talent walks out the door. As you read this article you will discover there is more at stake than the cost of turnover.

What is Engagement?

Towers Perrin defines employee engagement as:

…”the extent to which employees put discretionary effort into their work, in the form of extra time, brainpower and energy” Gallop says that engaged employees “feel connected, emotionally, socially and even spiritually” to the organization’s purpose.

We have all observed teams that beat the odds and win. Some examples include the Butler men’s basketball team’s performance at the NCAA finals this year or the ‘Miracle on Ice‘ US hockey team in the 1980 Olympics. Research tells us that only between 17% and 29% of employees are actually engaged in their work. Think about it. If only 2-3 players on a basketball or soccer team were actually engaged, how do you think that team would perform? They certainly would not have a winning track record.

So what do athletic teams and teams in the workplace need to do to reach their optimal performance levels? There are two key ingredients:

A) Leadership/Coaching

B) Allowing team members to work from their natural strengths.

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What can employers do to engage staff?

1. Provide leadership training.

Few people are born with innate leadership capabilities. Leadership is a learned skill. Make certain your leaders are set up for success with ongoing learning opportunities. Here are two key concepts leaders need to learn. They need to take the time to build relationships and trust with each of their direct reports.

Whether leaders are co-located or work virtually, they need to spend time getting to know each staff member on a personal basis. Find out what they like to do. Learn about what excites them and increases their energy and commitment. Second, leaders need to support the continuous learning and career ambitions of their staff.

This is particularly important for Millennials who are often motivated to continuously learn and achieve.

One of the biggest complaints we hear from virtual staff is that they feel invisible and ignored. Make certain you have career discussions with your dispersed and global staff.

2. Create a coaching culture.

Feedback is a key to establish a continuous learning environment. Managers need to learn how to provide feedback in a way that employees can hear it and benefit from it. Teach managers coaching skills. Millennial staff expect to be coached. Coaching is a skill all managers should acquire.

3. Provide tools to help leaders learn about individual strengths.

When people work from their strengths, they are more productive and more satisfied.

“Employees who have the opportunity to focus on their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life.”

The research goes on to say that people who are not operating from strengths at work probably suffer from the following symptoms:

  • Dread coming to work
  • Have more negative than positive interactions with co-workers and customers
  • Frequently tell friends about the lousy company they work for
  • Contribute less creativity to the organization.

To combat the cause of disengaged employees, I use tools to help people work in their zones of strengths. One amazing tool that focuses on strengths is the 5 Dynamics Assessment. It is taken online in only 2-5 minutes and provides people and leaders with four powerful reports: an individual report, a team profile, a coach report and a colleague report.

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So Why Bother?

What will your organization gain by focusing on employee engagement?

Highly engaged employees outperform their disengaged colleagues by 20-28% according to the Conference Board. A study of 28 multinational companies by Serota Consulting found that the share price of organizations with highly engaged employees rose by an average of 16% compared with an industry average of 6%.

On the other side of the high stakes coin, there are enormous costs associated with a disengaged workforce.

Disengagement can cost between $243-$270 billion dollars a year due to low productivity according to a Gallup poll. In one study by ISR, companies with low levels of employee engagement found that their net profit fell by 1.38% and operating margins fell by 2.01% over a three-year period.

In comparison, companies with high levels of engagement found that their operating margins rose by 3.74% over a three-year period. You do the math. How costly is disengagement? It may not show up directly on the company ledger but the ROI on investing in engagement strategies is significant.

What will your company do now to raise the engagement levels of staff? What will you do to train your leaders and hold them accountable for engaging staff? How will you learn more about the strengths of each staff member?

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Here is
Part One | This is Part Two
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Bookmark High Stakes: The Employee Engagement Game

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Barb Miller is President of Artemis Management Consultants
She specializes in executive coaching, leadership & team development
Email | LinkedIn | Blog | Web | Web

Image Sources: safetycampus.files.wordpress.com
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The Employee Engagement Game: Will you Win or Lose?

Employee engagement at work is one of the most important determining factors in overall health of an organization.

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This is Part One | Here is
Part Two
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People who are actively and positively engaged with the work they do get better overall results, cost less to the organization, and make the work environment a more attractive place to be. On the other hand, disengaged employees cost organizations money, cause much higher turnover figures, and make the work environment unpleasant for everyone around.

So what do we do?

Organizational Health Check

So, if employee engagement is so import to organizational health, let’s take a quick check and see how things are going in organizations today. The Conference Board reports that in 2009 only 45% of employees indicated they were engaged in their work. A recent Gallop Poll suggested the number was really a lot lower! This is not good for companies and organizations who want to keep their top people.

The numbers show that many people are simply lying low and waiting for the economic engines to start to roar again so that they can jump ship to another employer at their first opportunity. This not a healthy report for firms who want to leverage their strengths when the economy gets going. So this begs the question:

What can we do to keep talented people when the economy improves?

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Get the Facts

The first step in figuring out how to keep the best and brightest people on board is to understand the present condition.

STEP I. RESEARCH

Let’s look at some research facts to find out what employees are saying and then let’s discuss what you can do about it in your organization. These three recent surveys asked what was important for job satisfaction and/or engagement:

Salary.com Society for Human Resource Management Randstad
Good Relationships with Co-Workers Professional Development Opportunities Trust – by both managers and co-workers.
Job Security Relationship with Manager and Flexibility
Flexibility: Desirable Commute and Desirable Hours Flexibility Support with career growth and the desire to grow with the company.

So take a look at the three columns. (Each column heading has a link to the survey for more details.)

So, can you discern the patterns? Can you see what employees really want to make them feel like working for you? But just seeing and understanding this data often times doesn’t make the remedy appear. Times are tight! It is certainly a challenge during an economic downturn to invest in your employees. But unless you do, you may lose them as soon as the job market loosens up.

Here’s interesting data:

Approximately 65% of employees admitted to passively or actively looking for a new job, compared to employers’ estimate of 37%. Employers overestimate the degree of extremely satisfied employees nearly 2 to 1. Furthermore, this research found that Millennials report the lowest job satisfaction scores.

Can you afford to lose your young talent?

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Understand the Impact

STEP II. KNOW YOUR INVESTMENT

Remember, if you lose valuable talent the consequences are costly:

  • It costs between 150%-200% of a person’s salary to replace an employee.
  • Institutional knowledge walks out the door.
  • The manager and team spend time away from productive work to integrate the new employee.
  • If a respected employee leaves, it may cause others to consider leaving as well. The brain drain may begin.
  • It is common that the most talented and marketable employees leave. You lose your high potential employees.

Can you risk having them work for the competition?

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Provide the Cure

STEP III. GET YOUR PRESCRIPTION

Here are three concrete strategies you can carry out to engage or re-engage your workforce:

Training

Conduct leadership training and leadership coaching to increase the capacity of your managers so they support their staff more effectively. The capability of your leaders is the primary link to employee engagement. Employee engagement is the key factor to achieving your business results. Hold leaders accountable for increasing employee engagement.

Feedback

Ask your employees what is important to them. Conduct employee climate surveys or hold focus groups or open forums that allow for two-way communication.

Engage

Engage in team building opportunities. This does not have to be trust falls and rope courses. Make time to engage staff in problem solving difficult business challenges. Help your team learn more about the personal work preferences of each team member so they can work more effectively together. If you have a virtual team, don’t wait until the budget might allow for a face-to-face meeting. Learn how to build cohesive, high performing virtual teams.

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Act Now

Now is the time to explore how you can increase employee engagement, leadership ability, and team performance.

What is your company doing NOW to avoid the brain drain when the economy improves? What do you need to persuade senior managers to invest in retention strategies? Are your programs and policies meeting the needs of employees across the generations: Millennials, Gen X, Boomers and Seniors?

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This is Part One | Here is
Part Two
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Bookmark The Employee Engagement Game: Will you Win or Lose?

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Barb Miller is President of Artemis Management Consultants
She specializes in executive coaching, leadership & team development

Email | LinkedIn | Blog | Web | Web

Image Source: i54.photobucket.com

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Leadership Head’s-Up: They Are About To Jump Ship

Do you know what is really going on with employee morale at your company or organization? Or are you too busy fearing for your own job to know or care? Will your company be able to avoid a brain drain when the economy improves? How can you as a manager or  human resource professional retain your company’s talent?

Take a look at these three reports

In a recent Business Week article, they reported that employees are holding on to their jobs for dear life during this recession. However, pent-up frustration within employees from their current jobs may mean that their frightened posture quickly gets a spine and timidity turns into bravado within the ranks when the economy turns around and companies begin to hire again. It will mean that there will be a massive exodus from many employers once the economy turns around where employers face a brain/talent drain like they haven’t seen in some time.

Unlike in previous times, valuable employees are not so satisfied at their jobs and their willingness to perform at high levels is waning. A Watson Wyatt survey found that the engagement or loyalty of top performers has dropped a whopping 25% in just one year. And sadly, many managers have no idea that this is happening.

Spherion Staffing Solutions found a huge discrepancy between what managers thought would be the things that would retain employees and what those employees actually indicated what they would want in order to remain on the job. Managers thought that they were the most important element in an employee’s decision to stay or leave. However in the Spherion research, employees reported that pay and benefits, or lack thereof, were the major reasons why they would jump ship when they had the opportunity to do so.

Jumping Ship

During the current economic recession, many career promotions, compensation increases, and benefit enhancements have been frozen. Employees may feel that the only way they can play ‘catch-up’ in their career desires is by jumping ship to another employer and negotiating a better package with them after today’s economic shackled are lifted and new career horizons appears to them.

But there may be something else that will help managers retain staff when the economy turns around.

Employees report they are looking for flexibility. This is the case with Millennials, new parents, those who care for elderly relatives, and those considering retirement. Perhaps the company that comes out on top when staff start looking for new opportunities is the company that provides flexible work schedules, telecommuting, or part-time job opportunities.

Employee Investment

Now is an opportune time to start experimenting with these options. It would be a great way to show your workforce that even though you cannot raise salaries, you are seeking ways to help support their personal needs. These efforts have no cost or minimal cost associated with them. Even if your entire company does not support these practices, managers can experiment with their own teams and then demonstrate to others in the company the successes they have experienced. If managers are able to retain talent, they may be a role model for other managers in the organization.

Boosting Morale

Many companies are using flexibility in another way during this recession. Companies are cutting hours in order to avoid layoffs. This strategy can boost morale. Employees who may be anxious about impending pink slips are relieved when they learn that their employer is doing everything possible to avoid layoffs. By cutting back everyone’s hours, companies save money and demonstrate their caring and compassion. Managers may need to revisit both individual and team goals to determine what is actually a priority to accomplish given that everyone is working fewer hours. Avoiding layoffs can increase employee loyalty and commitment resulting in higher retention rates.

The estimates for the cost of replacing one mid-level employee ranges from 150%-250%  of salary. This estimate does not even reflect the cost of lost institutional knowledge and the time it takes for a new employee to come up to speed.

What’s stopping you from experimenting? Have you asked your employees what they want in order to continue their loyalty? What challenges have you found with flexible work practices and how have you overcome them? What other ideas do you have for retaining talent as the economy improves? I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Barbara Miller is Managing Director of Artemis Management Consultants
She can be reached at bmiller@artemismanagement.com

Image Sources: jerks.puxley.ca, infoworld.com, microstockprofit.com

We Created Them… Now What?

As I walk the halls of organizations today, I hear comments like:

They want to be promoted as soon as they arrive!?!?

They think they know it all!”

They have such a sense of entitlement…

I hear these comments coming from Senior and Boomer managers about Millennials or Gen Y employees.

Leading Across the Generations:

For the first time in history, we now have four generations in the workplace. Today’s four working generations are named Seniors, Boomers, Gen X and Millennials. There has always been a generation gap between groups of people,  but now it is more like a chasm. It is ironic that Senior and Boomer managers are complaining about the younger generation because, these are the parents that created them!

I’ll own up to it. I’m a Boomer parent. Many Boomer parents applauded every achievement our kids realized; we gave everyone on the soccer team a trophy. No more MVP players for Millennials, everyone received recognition. As parents, we asked for their ideas around the dining room table; we may even have let them take part in consensus decision-making about issues that affected them. We treated them as adults. One third of Millennials are only children so they grew up in an adult world.

So why are we so surprised when they bring these experiences and expectations into the workplace? We are shocked when they want on-going feedback? We bristle at their sense of self-confidence and self-assurance at such a young age? We resist when they want to be included in decision making. But why are we so confused?

We created them!

Now how do we manage them in the workplace?

Here are some tips for Senior and Boomer leaders to work optimally with Millennials employees:

Provide On-Going Feedback

This is actually a best practice for all managers so you don’t have to treat Millennials any differently. Millennials are especially open to coaching since they have had a variety of coaches, therapists, tutors and helicopter parents supporting them throughout their short lives. They arrive in the workplace expecting a support system to help them succeed.

Provide Training

Millennials are enthusiastic learners. Give them as many learning opportunities as possible but avoid the standard classroom approach. Make the training tech-laden, interactive, and fun! Millennials see work as play. Help them enjoy themselves and perhaps you can enjoy yourself along with them!

Organize Teams

Millennials thrive with social interaction and collaboration. Encourage them to take part in as many teams as possible. They worked in teams during schools so they have more of a collaborative style than their elders who aspire for individual recognition.

Mentor and Be Mentored

Let Millennials feel they can contribute by having them mentor their elders on technology. In return the elders can mentor the Millennials on understanding the organizational culture and transferring institutional knowledge.

• Be Flexible

This is another managerial best-practice. Since Millennials are so tech savvy, they do not see the need to come to a central office location. They can work and collaborate anywhere, anytime. Millennials also value their personal life and their personal time. This is another reason they crave flexibility. Flexibility is also another important best practice for leaders in the 21st century. Flexibility is one of the primary criteria for placement on one of the Best Places to Work lists: Fortune Magazine and Working Mothers Magazine.

The Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Places to Work and the Working Mother’s Magazine 100 Best Companies reports provide all the data one needs to see that flexibility in workplace environments translated to bottom line results. The top firms listed are not only flexible but these companies also have higher return on investment for their shareholders as reported by the analysts at Russell Investments. Every year Russell analysts compare the performance of a stock portfolio based on the Fortune 100 Best list to other indices.

Russell Investments states “100 Best companies have out-paced the rest of their Russell 1000 brethren in three-year total return by 26 percent.

Millennials have so much to offer our organizations. They are quick learners and they are innovative. They welcome learning opportunities. They enjoy working in a collaborative environment. They thrive on challenges and want to have stimulating and meaningful jobs. They are more civic-minded. They want to be respected.

Sound familiar… don’t we all seek respect in the workplace?

You and your organization can acquire tremendous benefits from implementing some of these ideas and overcoming the knee jerk reaction to be turned off by people who are different, who show different values and different work styles. Leaders have always been challenged to work with different personality styles or employees who have different needs. Leading across the four generations is just another diversity challenge that requires the implementation of leadership best practices.

Can you step up to the challenge? As the economy improves and you hire more Millennials what will you do to prepare yourself so you are not frustrated by the style differences? How can you use leadership best practices to lead across the generations and meet the diverse needs of each generation? Would your company welcome a 26% ROI increase?

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Barbara Miller is Managing Director of Artemis Management Consultants
She can be reached at bmiller@artemismanagement.com

Image Sources: tvsa.co.za, unr.edu, imgsgssl.jobing.com

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