Rethinking Employee Engagement

employee engagement makes for a happy workplaceEmployee engagement—which studies show is a critical success factor for businesses—is evolving as demographics, societal priorities, and technologies change. So does the word still fit today’s businesses or have we moved beyond engagement to something more?

Is Employee Engagement Passe?

In a Forbes article, “It’s Time To Rethink The ‘Employee Engagement’ Issue,” Josh Bersin, founder of Bersin by Deloittecites his firm’s 2014 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends research, which shows 78% of business leaders rate retention and engagement urgent or important.

“When I talk with HR leaders they talk consistently about retention issues, they carefully watch their Glassdoor ratings, and businesses all over the world are trying to build an inclusive, passionate, multi-generational team,” he writes. “In fact, I believe the issue of ‘engaging people well’ is becoming one of the biggest competitive differentiators in business.”

He suggests using the word engagement limits our thinking.

“It assumes that our job is to reach out and engage people, rather than to build an organization that is exciting, fulfilling, meaningful, and fun.”

Bersin posits potential changes:

“We may need to change the way we manage people (end appraisals?), change the work environment (open offices? nap rooms? ping-pong tables?), and change who we hire (are we hiring the right people for our mission, culture and values? Are we assessing well?). All these things tend to go well beyond the typical engagement survey.

Financial institutions today tell us that they are having a harder time recruiting people because they are no longer “cool” places to work. This isn’t a traditional problem of engagement, it’s one of identity, mission, and culture.”

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6 Keys to Engaging a Distributed Workforce

Engaging a Distributed Workforce

As workplaces evolve to be more distributed, learn how to stay connected and keep employees feeling valued.

Great employee engagement can be a challenge even when all workers are in one place. So how do you successfully engage a distributed workforce scattered across the country—or the globe?

As Aon Hewitt’s global engagement research—which involved 6.7 million employees representing more than 2,900 organizations—found, it’s worth the effort.  The resulting report, “Trends in Global Employee Engagement,” says:

“The companies that have a highly engaged workforce … proactively respond to the environment, competition, and changing workforce needs. They evolve, but stay true to the values that made them successful, and are well positioned for continued success in the future.”

The study identifies 3 top engagement drivers critical to success:

  • Providing career opportunities
  • Ensuring all employees understand and align with the company’s brand
  • Recognizing employees for a job well done.

That’s true of any workforce, but there are special challenges when striving to engage a distributed workforce.  A report prepared by James Ware and Charles Grantham, founders of The Work Design Collaborative, LLC, called “Connecting and Engaging Teams in a Distributed Workforce,” finds:

“a virtual explosion of distributed/mobile/flexible work across all market segments, including large organizations, small businesses, and free agents/entrepreneurs. In fact, our research suggests that fully 15% of the U.S. workforce now spends one or more days a week outside a corporate facility, and we project that number to grow beyond 25% within five years.”

Connecting and engaging distributed workforces is not mission impossible, the report says.

“It just requires some new tactics, new policies and guidelines, new technology tools, and updated HR management practices. It’s not simple, but it is certainly doable; and the payoff in increased productivity and performance makes the effort well worthwhile.”

While managing distributed employees calls for many of the same practices any good manager uses:

“To be successful, managers of distributed workers must master major and often unrecognized new behaviors and skills to ensure success.”

6 Keys to Successfully Engaging a Distributed Workforce

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How to Start a Workplace Wellness Program

workplace wellness class

Easy workplace wellness activities – organize walks or exercise classes at lunch-time

There’s never a better time to start a workplace wellness program than now!

“When workplace wellness programs are implemented correctly by using thorough, company-specific research and planning, they have win-win potential for both the employer and the employees.”

That’s according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), in Wellness Programs: How can wellness programs benefit employers, and what are the general steps for implementing a wellness program? *

SHRM observes that wellness programs can benefit employers by:

  • Lowering health care costs.
  • Reducing absenteeism.
  • Achieving higher employee productivity.
  • Reducing workers’ compensation and disability-related costs.
  • Reducing injuries.
  • Improving employee morale and loyalty.

In “Quick Shots for #HR and Business Pros–#Wellness Edition,” HR consultant Sharlyn Lauby notes:

“According to the Centers for Disease Control, cardiovascular disease—including heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure—is the number one killer of women and men in the U.S. It’s also the leading cause of disability, preventing Americans from working and enjoying family activities, as well as costing the nation over $300 billion each year from the cost of health care services, medications and lost productivity.”

How to Start a Workplace Wellness program?

A workplace wellness program can be as simple as structured lunch-time walks or sponsored team athletic events, to state-of-the-art fitness centers, healthy living programs and on-site counseling.  If you are just starting out, there’s no harm in starting small, learning what works and expand offerings over-time.

According to SHRM, the basic steps to starting a workplace wellness program include the following.  SHRM members can login and download a free toolkit called “Designing and Managing Wellness Programs”.

  1. Establish the goal of the wellness program.
  2. Decide the company’s level of involvement in the program.
  3. Establish the budget and expected ROI.
  4. Choose employee rewards.
  5. Write and communicate the policy/program.

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Why Alaska Is A Model For Workplace Wellness

Alaska - a model for workplace wellness

Alaskans ranked first in the country for overall happiness and well-being, making the state a model for workplace wellness. (Photo via NOAA Photo Library, Flickr)

Inspiration for excellent workplace wellness typically comes from successful companies or HR experts. But what if we could learn best practices for workplace wellness from a whole state?

The Last Frontier state is our source of that inspiration this year.

Alaska ranked at the top for overall well-being and happiness in the comprehensive 2014 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The annual survey polls more than 176,000 people across the country.

The Well-Being Index measures five aspects of our lives:

  1. Purpose: liking what you do each day, being motivated to achieve goals
  2. Social: having supportive relationships and love in your life
  3. Financial: managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security
  4. Community: liking where you live, feeling safe, having pride in your community
  5. Physical: having good health and enough energy for daily life

Alaska leads the country almost every category, reaching the top spot overall for the first time since Gallup-Healthways began tracking well-being in 2008. Hawaii and South Dakota round out the top three for 2014.

Where does your state rank? Read the full analysis of survey results.

City and state rankings are common fodder for Internet listicles — and often based on shaky data — but the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index is one worth noting. Not only the research comprehensive and deep, the results appear to correlate with other markers of success.

“Well-being surveys aren’t just for bragging rights,” writes Washington Post staffer Reid Wilson, in his GovBeat post, “Best State in America: Alaska, Where Well-Being Is Highest.”

“Previous surveys have found that better scores are related to positive outcomes such as lower workplace absenteeism rates, better performance at work, lower obesity rates, and lower rates of teen pregnancy and crime,” Reid writes.

Read on to find out why Alaskans are so happy — and why their state is a model for workplace wellness.

The 6 Markers of Alaskan Well-Being (And Workplace Wellness)

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How to Engage Service Workers

engage service workers makes for a happier workplace

Engaged Customer Service Employees Provide Better Service (File via Weblitz, Flickr)

Service workers are often customers’ first experience with your business. That’s one group of workers you want to be sure to know and engage with so they feel great about working for you and share their enthusiasm for your business with customers!

It’s no surprise then, that an engaged service group can also significantly boost customer retention.

However, recent Gallup research shows:

“Service workers are among the least engaged in the U.S. And their level of engagement has declined even as engagement has increased for every other job category.”

That’s from an article by Gallup’s Susan Sorenson and Keri Garman, titled “Getting the Most Out of the Employee-Customer Encounter.”

Omega Management Group echos this in the article, “Employee engagement is lowest among front-line workers.”

“Their attitude and commitment can mean the difference between successful sales and lost opportunities. This makes it important for companies in every industry to implement employee engagement practices as a way to improve customer satisfaction.”

What Do Service Workers Want?

To fully engage service workers, companies need to understand what motivates them.  That means getting to know them – understanding what would make their work lives easier and more productive, and what would make them more successful in addressing customer needs?  What motivates them to do a great job for you?

Author Rob Markey, a partner and director at Bain & Company, in a Harvard Business Review article, “Engage Employees Using Customer Service Tactics,” weighs in on why businesses fail to engage frontline employees:

“In my view, it boils down to a startling disconnect between how companies try to promote engagement and what truly inspires and motivates employees.”

Rather than having human resources “own” employee engagement and measure it with long annual surveys, he suggests short, frequent, easy to complete questionnaires like those given to customers. This respects employees’ time and you ask only the few questions that yield the most important insights. He recommends doing short surveys often enough to generate a steady stream of information about engagement levels and ideas for improvement.

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Secrets To Building A Happier Workplace

the secrets to workplace happiness

“Happiness is not a goal, it is a byproduct.” —Eleanor Roosevelt (Image via Marcie Casas, Flickr)

Workplace happiness is in the spotlight now as Japanese tech company Hitachi recently announced its latest product, a wearable “mood monitor” for employees.

The device looks like an ID badge but contains “an acceleration monitor to measure the wearer’s motions throughout the day in real-time, based on the concept that an employee’s physical movements indicate or influence mood,” according to Carolyn Cox of The Mary Sue.

“When the devices are worn by an entire office,” Cox writes, “workplace happiness is measured on a scale of 1-100.”

Each monitor collects individual data 50 times per second, then sends it to Hitachi’s cloud-based servers where it is taken together to “interpret the group’s overall mood,” according to The Wall Street Journal’s Japan Real Time blog.

Using this data, employers can pinpoint problem areas. One test company used the Hitachi data to restructure break time and reported significantly increased employee satisfaction as a result, according to Japanese news site RocketNews24.

The reaction to Hitachi’s product announcement has been mixed. Even though Big Data is already prevalent in and out of the workplace, a “mood monitor” may go a step further and could raise privacy concerns.

It’s also a pricey way to gauge workplace happiness, at least for now. Each individual monitor has an annual subscription fee of $843.

But the Hitachi device brings up an important discussion about workplace happiness and how to achieve it.

Read on to find out why building workplace happiness is easier than you think, with or without Big Data’s help.

Why Workplace Happiness Isn’t Your Real Goal

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How to Engage Manufacturing Workers

How to engage manufacturing workers?

Photo via James Wu, Flickr

It’s no secret that it’s essential to engage workers if you want optimum company performance. And who doesn’t? In the next few weeks we’ll look at ways to engage workers across a variety of businesses. Here’s a closer look at how to engage manufacturing workers.

The power of workplace engagement

First, some overall information about employee engagement. Alison M. Konrad, a professor of organizational behavior and the Corus Entertainment Chair in Women in Management at Ivey Business School addresses engaging workers in “Engaging Employees Through High-involvement Work Practices”:

“Employee engagement can be critically important to competitiveness in the contemporary business environment. The Gallup Organization, which studied employee engagement in 7,939 business units in 36 companies, found that employee engagement was positively associated with performance in a variety of areas, including increased customer satisfaction, profitability and productivity, and reduced employee turnover.”

Recent research suggests that high-involvement work practices can develop the positive beliefs and attitudes associated with employee engagement, and that these practices can generate the kinds of discretionary behaviors that lead to enhanced performance. Simply put, employees who conceive, design and implement workplace and process changes are engaged employees.”

Employee engagement has three related components, she writes:

  • Cognitive—employees’ beliefs about the organization, its leaders, and working conditions
  • Emotional—how employees feel about each of those three factors and whether they have positive or negative attitudes toward the organization and its leaders
  • Behavioral—the discretionary effort engaged employees bring to their work in the form of extra time, brainpower and energy devoted to the task and the firm

She cites organizational effectiveness scholar Edward Lawler and his colleagues, who have identified four interlocking principles for building a high-involvement work system. Managers should provide employees with:

  • Power—to make workplace decisions
  • Knowledge—through training to build their skills and enable them to implement decisions effectively
  • Information—about how their actions affect business unit performance
  • Rewards—for their efforts to improve performance

Need For Customizing Employee Engagement

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7 Ideas For Surviving The Winter Workplace Blahs

surviving winter workplace blahs

Don’t let the winter workplace blahs turn your organization upside down! (Image via purits, Flickr)

It’s cold, it’s cloudy and the sparkle of the holidays is long gone. How can you help your employees beat the winter workplace blahs?

Up to 20 percent of Americans suffer from mild symptoms associated with the winter blues, according to Duke Today writer April Dudash. Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a more intense version of depression that occurs during the winter months. About 11 million Americans suffer from SAD.

Even a mild case of the “blahs” can wreck havoc in a workplace. Employees drag in late feeling glum, disengaged and low on energy.

Emotions are contagious (and can even be passed on via smell!), so one person’s winter blahs can quickly become everyone’s blahs. When that happens, productivity, customer relations and employee health suffer.

Self-care is especially important for company leaders during this time, since their behavior, mood and energy levels set the tone for the organization as a whole.

Escape is our natural impulse when the blahs hit — maybe to a daydream about a tropical beach! — but in fact, engaging with our emotions, our work and each other is the better way to keep the blahs at bay. Engaging keeps a workplace resilient!

Help your organization be resilient to the winter workplace blahs by incorporating the following ideas into your employee wellness program.

7 Ideas For Surviving The Winter Workplace Blahs

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Workplace Health & Wellness: 2015 Trends to Know

Workplace health and wellness - runners

Photo via Mario Mencacci, Flickr

Workplace health and wellness has been a hot topic in recent years, and the way businesses foster wellness continues to evolve. So what’s trending in 2015 that you should know? What’s right for your business?

Studies show that healthier employees make for a stronger business. In an article for The Center for Association Leadership, “The Benefits of Workplace Wellness Programs,” contributor  Jacqui Cook writes:

“If you’re looking to build a workplace with more staff camaraderie, greater productivity, and less absenteeism, an organization-wide wellness initiative can help you get there. And the gravy? Lower insurance costs.”

One trend Brian Shapland, general manager of turnstone, a Steelcase office furniture brand, cites in “5 Workplace wellness trends of 2015,” is that:

“Professionals, particularly Millennials, are saying no thanks to remaining tethered to a workstation for 8 hours a day—they’re looking for a culture of choice and control, and business leaders are taking notice.”

He believes this wave of influence will inform workplace wellness trends in 2015 and beyond. Businesses will make employee wellbeing a priority, he writes, including:

Giving employees the opportunity to change postures throughout the day.

“It’s not just considerate, it’s smart. A well-designed palette of postures includes offering walk stations, height-adjustable desks, and active seats, like turnstone’s Buoy, designed to offset some of the risks associated with remaining sedentary.

Providing nutritious snacks and water make it easy for employees to refuel throughout the day, short-circuiting default plans to hit the vending machine or drive-thru.”

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The 3 Myths of Workplace Kindness Debunked

workplace kindness can be a simple as a smile

A culture of workplace kindness makes for kinder employees and happier customers. (Photo via Hans Peter Meyer, Flickr)

Are myths about workplace kindness holding back your organization?

Workplace kindness has a history of being shortchanged. We’re taught the benefits of being kind to family, to friends and in the community, but not on the job.

Traditionally the workplace has been idealized as a place of ruthless competition, independence and closely guarded emotions.

This is changing, as research reveals the profound benefits of kindness in all aspects of our lives, including business.

JoAnn C. Jones, a longtime nurse, tells the magazine Guideposts of a lesson she learned about kindness in her second year of nursing school. Her professor had given the class a quiz, and the last question on the quiz was, “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?” Jones thought it was a joke question.

I had seen the cleaning woman several times, but how would I know her name? I handed in my paper, leaving the last question blank. Before the class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our grade. “Absolutely,” the professor said. “In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello.” I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Dorothy.

Kindness can be as simple as noticing other people. Still, fear of the supposed pitfalls of kindness keeps many people from fully engaging with it.

This week here at gThankYou’s Celebrating Work blog, we’re taking a closer look at workplace kindness in honor of Random Acts of Kindness Week 2015, which runs through this Sunday, Feb. 15. So far we’ve covered the good business sense of workplace kindness and how to cultivate a pay-it-forward workplace culture.

Now let’s debunk the myths that hold back too many of us from being kinder to our coworkers and employees.
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