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Employee Engagement

Via Forbes : Four Lessons From Companies That Get Employee Engagement Right

Research has proven that employee engagement contributes to increased profitability, yet most organizations still have no formal engagement strategy in place and two-thirds of employees are disengaged. A 2016 Gallup study drew the connection between consistently low engagement and team performance and suggested that when an employee’s engagement needs are not met, there is a higher likelihood of turnover — which can cost an employer 1.5 times the employee’s original salary. The study also found that engaged teams have lower turnover, 21% greater profitability, 17% higher productivity and 10% higher customer ratings than disengaged teams.

Having an engaged workforce is clearly good for business, but there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy to make it happen. So, gaining a better understanding of what your unique employees need is the surest path to success. By putting your people at the forefront, you can discover what they need from their managers, work environments and leadership teams and proactively build an engagement strategy around those needs.

Here are four valuable lessons we can learn from four companies who have successfully put their engagement strategies into action:

1. Employees perform better when the company mission is clear.

In the airline industry, customer service is not always easy. Canceled flights and policy changes are rarely in the hands of flight attendants, and customer service reps must often deal with disgruntled customers. Yet, I’ve noticed that employees at Southwest Airlines are generally friendly and seem happy and engaged at work. What’s their secret?

In January 2013, Southwest unveiled a new corporate vision and purpose to its employees. It explained that Southwest leverages “the power of storytelling to make sure each one of its 46,000 employees pursues the company vision each and every day… by rallying employees around a common purpose.”

Engagement happens when employees feel like part of a bigger mission and purpose — but it must be authentically deep-rooted in leadership, business models and culture programs. True employee ownership of a company vision and purpose happens when employees live and breathe the mission in their day-to-day interactions.

2. Employees at all levels need to be recognized for their contributions.

Imagine if you tripled your company’s revenue and profit year over year, but your board of directors didn’t acknowledge your team’s hard work. Now scale this concept down to an entry-level employee. She might not be doubling company revenue, but the blog post she wrote — now her first piece of published work — is a major professional accomplishment. If nobody recognizes this personal achievement, she might not be as motivated to keep producing great work.

A client of my company’s that has 180 employees recently learned through an employee feedback initiative that some employees felt as though their peers were getting special treatment simply because they were more “liked” by decision makers. To address this issue, the company created a new program in which employees are invited to nominate their peers for recognition. This seemingly small action prompted a major cultural shift, and engagement improved across the organization. They were also in a better position to retain high-value client business as a direct result of more engaged customer-facing employees.

3. Employees are more engaged when they tackle big problems as a team.

A publisher of teaching and learning materials since 1807, Wiley Publishing faced a big challenge a few years ago: It had 700 branded social accounts that lacked strategic direction. Customers didn’t know where to go for customer service, and problems were being handled differently across departments.

The company decided to implement an all-hands-on-deck solution and launched social media training across multiple teams and departments to close the digital skills gap and create a more consistent customer experience. Interestingly, the approach didn’t just impact customer service. The publisher saw a 90% increase in employee engagement, too. As employees worked together as a team to increase internal collaboration and strategic thinking, worker engagement rates skyrocketed.

A collaborative, cross-functional approach to solving problems leads to a sense of ownership and camaraderie among employees.

4. Employees need to have a voice (and leaders who listen).

Candid feedback and input from those on the business’s front lines can be extremely valuable to informing business decisions. Before you can intelligently shape your organization’s overall engagement strategy, it’s important to gather direct employee feedback in order to move the needle on the problems that truly matter. Additionally, employee insights can help validate the gut feelings you may already have around broken parts of your company’s culture. I believe this so strongly because I see it in practice consistently as my company’s clients share their stories of utilizing our employee survey tools.

Our client company that has over 300 employees across multiple facilities already had a strong cultural foundation as a majority employee-owned organization. But its leadership team had a hunch that employees in certain remote divisions were less engaged than those at the company headquarters. The company began collecting confidential employee feedback each quarter to pinpoint engagement issues and areas for improvement. By amplifying the employee voice and thoughtfully taking action in response, the company saw quick results. They increased engagement scores across the company and have invested in a true culture of feedback.

Improving employee engagement won’t happen overnight and will look different for every business. Continually measuring employee sentiment will help you better understand what areas to take action on and how to make the biggest impact. When employees are authentically engaged, it leads to productivity, profitability and, more importantly, a team of workers pursuing the company’s vision and goals with vigor and enthusiasm every single day.

Via Forbes : Your Secret Weapon For Increasing Employee Engagement: Purpose

According to Gallup, around 70% of American workers are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work. When you consider that the average American will spend at least one-third of his or her life working, this is a particularly somber statistic.

It begs the question: what if we were able to flip the statistic on its head? What if 70% of Americans became highly engaged at work? More importantly, what would it take?

The power of purpose

There are several factors that contribute to engagement at work, but one of the most powerful drivers of engagement is purpose. According to a study by Imperative, purposeful employees perform better across the board. They are more likely to rise to senior level roles, to be net promoters of their organization, to stay longer, and to have strong relationships with their colleagues.

In other words, cultivating a purposeful workforce not only benefits employees, but it can give employers a competitive advantage as well. Imagine a world where everyone spent the majority of their waking hours working on something that mattered to them. We would have happier employees and more productive companies – the ultimate win-win.

What it will take

Unfortunately, purpose is equally as esoteric as it is powerful. There is no single path to purpose and no single definition that encompasses its many facets. Every individual’s journey is different, depending on personal preferences, passions, and work environment.

Irrespective of the individual, however, there are three broad behavioral shifts that can help create a more engaged global workforce.

1. Lead with WHY.

Taking a cue from Simon Sinek, it may be as simple as asking the right question: why? This applies to both employers and employees. Companies must ask themselves why they exist and find a way to clearly articulate this “why” through a mission statement and a compelling brand (story). This can not only drive more purpose amongst existing employees, but may also enable prospective job candidates to better determine whether they would be a good fit for the job.

At the same time, employees need to spend more time evaluating their own personal motivations. Consider what exactly you want to get out of work, how you define success, and what type of environment might enable you to achieve success on your terms.

According to Cone Communications, 75% of millennials are willing to take a paycut to work for a values-driven company. So when it comes to attracting and retaining purpose-driven talent, leading with “why” might be the most effective HR strategy you can deploy.

2. Take purpose off its pedestal.

Purpose signifies a greater sense of meaning, but how you define what type of work is meaningful to you is entirely personal. Some people find fulfillment from helping others, while others derive meaning from learning something new or working on a project they are particularly passionate about. As a society, we seem to have decided that some “purposes” are more worthy than others, but why should a banker feel any less purposeful than a social worker?

The proof is in the pudding. A study published by the American Psychological Association found that hospital janitors, responsible for some of the most menial and unglamorous of daily tasks, were amongst the most purposeful workers they surveyed.

As long as we rely on society to define what a valid purpose is, rather than the individual, people will continue to be woefully disappointed when they discover that being a doctor or a missionary doesn’t necessarily guarantee a greater sense of fulfillment.

3. Uplevel expectations.

As the lines between work and life continue to blur, we must raise our expectations. This not only applies to our expectations of employers and the culture they create or the benefits they offer, but rather our expectation of work more broadly.

Given the amount of time we dedicate to our profession, there is no reason to settle for being disengaged. In fact, it’s concerning that 90% of Americans seem to have accepted this as a daily reality. Thanks to the growing number of freelance platforms and tools available, you can design pretty much any job (or portfolio of jobs) you desire – as long as you have the passion and the drive to do so.

As a society, we need to move away from the notion that you’re “stuck” with the hand you’ve been dealt. Instead, what if we embraced the concept that inspired the original “American Dream” – the belief that you can design a life you love, as long as you’re willing to work for it?

In conclusion, yes, our society’s current lack of career engagement is cause for concern; but there is reason to be optimistic.As millennials now make up the largest generation in the workforce, “purpose” is becoming an important criteria for evaluating potential job choices.

Given the reality of longer life spans, paired with dwindling financial support from social security, we have to reevaluate career satisfaction for the long haul. And, in order to affect change at scale, we must take responsibility and start leading by example. Whether you’re an employer, employee, or both, consider how your day-to-day actions, conversations, and decisions might help enable these three mindset shifts. By prioritizing purpose, we can help rebuild a more engaged, fulfilled, and productive workforce – we can all win.

Via Forbes : New Study Shows Correlation Between Employee Engagement And The Long-Lost Lunch Break

Many American employees strive to perform their best in the workplace. They work overtime, agree to take on extra projects and rarely take a step away from their desk. In reality, this “work hard” mentality isn’t effective – and it’s definitely unhealthy. Employees who believe that they must work 24/7 to achieve a good standing in the workplace have the wrong idea. And unfortunately, employees often gain this idea through employers’ attitudes.

Chaining yourself to a desk or scarfing down your lunch in your cubicle isn’t a recipe for success – it’s a recipe for disaster. Without taking adequate breaks from work, employee productivity, mental well-being and overall work performance begin to suffer. Overworked employees often deal with chronic stress that can easily lead to job burnout. While this not only negatively affects employee health and well-being, it negatively affects the bottom line, too.

This is why it’s important that employers start encouraging employees to take breaks throughout the workday – especially lunch breaks. These breaks are essential in helping employees de-stress and re-charge for the rest of the workday. Regular breaks can also help improve overall job satisfaction. A recent survey by Tork shows exactly how important lunch breaks are, along with how rare they are in the North American workplace.

According to the survey:

  • Nearly 20% of North American workers worry their bosses won’t think they are hardworking if they take regular lunch breaks, while 13% worry their co-workers will judge them.
  • 38% of employees don’t feel encouraged to take a lunch break.
  • 22% of North American bosses say that employees who take a regular lunch break are less hardworking.

These statistics are really a shame because regular breaks create better employees. In fact, according to the Tork survey, nearly 90% of North American employees claim that taking a lunch breaks helps them feel refreshed and ready to get back to work. There are many research-backed health, wellness and performance benefits of taking breaks. Here are just a few examples of the benefits of regular breaks:

  • Increased productivity. While taking breaks might sound counterintuitive when it comes to boosting productivity, it’s one of the best ways to do so. Employees gain focus and energy after stepping away from their desks. A lunch break can help prevent an unproductive, mid-afternoon slump.
  • Improved mental well-being. Employees need time to recharge. Stress is incredibly common in the North American workplace, and it has detrimental effects on employees. Taking some time away from the desk to go for a quick walk or enjoy a healthy lunch helps release some of this stress and improves mental well-being.
  • Creativity boost. Taking a break can give employees a fresh perspective on challenging projects. It’s hard for employees to develop new ideas or solutions when they’ve been looking at the same thing all day. A lunch break will most certainly help get those creative juices flowing.
  • More time for healthy habits. Regular breaks, including a lunch break, give employees time to practice healthy habits in the workplace. They can use break times to make a healthy lunch, exercise, meditate, or engage in a self-care activity.

Besides these awesome benefits of regular breaks, the Tork survey also revealed that employees who take a lunch break on a daily basis feel more valued by their employer, and 81% of employees who take a daily lunch break having a strong desire to be an active member in their company. North American employees who take a lunch break every day scored higher on a range of engagement metrics, including job satisfaction, likelihood to continue working at the same company and likelihood to recommend their employer to others.

I recently spoke with Jennifer Deal, the Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership and Affiliated Research Scientist at the Center for Effective Organizations at University of Southern California (USC). She had this to say about Tork’s research and employee lunch breaks:

“The Tork research shows that employees who take a lunch break are more likely to be satisfied with their job, and say they are as effective and efficient as they would like to be. This is consistent with other research, which shows that taking breaks from work is important for recovery – and adequate recovery is critical for top performance. Energy isn’t unlimited, and just as athletes have halftime to rest during a game, employees need to rest so they can do their best work. Taking a break in the middle of the day for lunch is a recovery period, allowing employees to come back refreshed and reinvigorated for the second half – as this research clearly shows.”

Both Tork and Jennifer agree: employers will benefit from employees who take breaks. But how can employers change the mentality that “breaks are for slackers” in the workplace? Below are a few tips for encouraging employees to take breaks at your office:

  • Revamp break rooms. Be sure that the office has at least one break room for employees to retreat to whenever they need some time away from their desks. Provide comfortable furniture along with table and chairs for eating lunch. Employees will be more inclined to take breaks and lunch breaks when they have a comfortable space to do so.
  • Provide incentives. As a part of your workplace wellness program, offer employees some sort of incentive for taking regular breaks and a daily lunch break. Try creating a “break challenge” and have employees document their breaks throughout the day. Reward employees for their participation.
  • Discuss the benefits. Many employees aren’t aware of all the health and productivity benefits of regular breaks. Send out an email blast, put up some flyers or have managers give talks about the importance of taking some time away from the desk.
  • Take breaks yourself. Leading by example is always the best route. When employees see that their managers are taking lunch breaks and taking short breaks throughout the day, they’ll feel more encouraged to take breaks, too.

While the act of encouraging breaks is a huge step in the right direction, it’s also important to ensure that these breaks are healthy. For example, employees could potentially use break time for unhealthy habits such as getting fast food, smoking or scrolling through social media. Spending break time practicing poor health habits won’t yield productivity and wellness benefits.

Although employers can’t necessarily control how employees utilize their break time, they can certainly encourage healthy habits in the workplace. Here are some healthy break ideas:

  • Walking clubs. Team walking clubs are an excellent way to encourage regular breaks and physical activity. Encourage employees to form walking clubs with their colleagues and take two 10-minute walks each workday.
  • Healthy snacking. Stock company kitchens and break rooms with healthy snacking options like fresh fruit, veggies, hummus, and nuts. Encourage employees to take a midday break and do some healthy snacking together
  • Gym time. If employees really don’t want to leave the workplace for lunch, encourage them to use the gym instead. If you have an onsite gym, allow employees 30-minutes of on-the-clock time to use the facility. If you don’t have an onsite gym, consider bringing in a weekly yoga instructor or providing vouchers for gym memberships.
  • Socialize. Quality work relationships improve both mental and physical health. They help reduce stress and boost job satisfaction. Encourage employees to take breaks together by providing a game room or fun weekly team activities.
  • Quiet time. Sometimes break time is best spent as quiet time. Offer employees a quiet area to retreat to when they need to clear their minds and recharge. Employees can use this space to meditate, read or listen to some relaxing music.

Encouraging employees to take regular breaks throughout the day, including lunch breaks, is an easy way for employers to boost employee wellness along with work performance. Employers don’t want overworked employees running their business – it’s terrible for the bottom line. Help your employees feel refreshed and reduce some stress by allowing them to take regular breaks throughout the workday.

Via Business Matters : 4 ways to use CSR as an employee engagement tool

Today’s workforce is changing and it’s not always the juicy pay packets or novel perks attracting the freshest talent.

Emma Davidson, Area Retail Manager – City of London, Express explains that 50 percent of employees want work which connects to a larger purpose. So, businesses need to think seriously about activities that benefit others outside, as well as inside company walls.

In fact, research has found those who frequently participate in their company’s volunteer activities are more likely to feel loyal to their employer and be nearly twice as likely to be satisfied with the progression of their career.

So, how can businesses ensure they effectively implement CSR programmes into workplace culture?

Integrate into daily activities

To remain at the front of employees’ minds, CSR needs to be kept fresh and be more than a half-hearted page buried on your website. Companies should aim to incorporate it into everyday activities, to keep it constantly at front-of-mind for employees.

For example; at Express we strive to be ethically responsible for the thousands of cups and bags of coffee beans we provide our customers each week. As such, we widely encourage the use of recycling facilities and ensure our recycling policies are communicated across the business through e-newsletters, posters and updates on the company website.

Smaller charitable initiatives such as coffee mornings or group participation in events like Race for Life and Tough Mudder, create a fun approach to CSR and work well in complementing more serious, long-term corporate objectives.

Make sure you get the get the message out

It’s vital employees are informed of the collective impact their CSR contribution has. 80 percent of employees who take part in workplace volunteering say they are fully aware of the community investment policies, but this falls to 44 percent with employees who do not volunteer.

Earlier this year, Express participated in a refurbishment of a Salvation Army drop-in centre and donated a selection of long-life items visitors could take away to eat later.

As a result of internal feedback from those involved and information shared through social media channels, a larger group of employees volunteered for the next project undertaken with our partners.

You also need to make sure you communicate the long-term social impact of your hard work too. For example, instead of saying “We raised X amount for the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association this quarter”, you could say “The amount of money we raised will pay for the equivalent of three guide dogs’ training.” This provides more tangible evidence of success achieved by your employees.

Camaraderie promotes loyalty

Not only can CSR build strong internal teams, it can be a great opportunity to partner with clients and local businesses to cultivate better work relationships.

During the recent Salvation Army project, Express worked with its partner Metro Bank’s COO, which helped strengthen ongoing client relations leading to more potential charity partnerships.

CSR activities can build stronger in-house relationships, companywide too and having company leaders involved in charity endeavours can make senior staff more accessible to junior team members.

We’ve found our employees are usually more confident about engaging with their bosses in a more relaxed setting. Often, they are happier to ask questions or seek their advice, which they sometimes feel less comfortable doing in more formal work settings.

Attracting top talent

We’re increasingly finding top talent is attracted to companies that are socially conscious. This is just one of the reasons volunteering and charity work is highly encouraged at Express. We believe it contributes to our high staff retention rates and is one of the reasons why we have been voted one of the top 100 companies for graduates to work for by The Job Crowd.

For potential employees to see the CSR work your company participates in, ensure you promote the relevant awards and policies widely on your careers page. Posting images and videos that feature employees participating in charitable events also helps strengthen the impact of a positive workplace environment.

Through open conversations and proactively spreading the word about CSR activity, you are more likely to encourage ongoing internal conversations about your policies.

The more people talk about your good results and great social impact – the more likely they are to get involved – so keep putting the message out there and in time you will see the growth in enthusiastic volunteers, keen to give back.

Via Forbes : Employee Engagement Is A Lagging Indicator Of Culture

I once heard an author describe the “crisis” of disengagement among employees in our workforce as “a disease affecting the central nervous system of our economy.” And he’s right. There are many different measures of employee engagement out there, but pretty much every report I have read presents some pretty depressing numbers.

Gallup is perhaps the most widely cited, and they peg the percentage of truly engaged employees in the U.S. workforce at about 31%. And perhaps even more alarming, nearly 20% are described as “actively disengaged.” Think about that for a minute. Imagine that right now, in your organization, about one out of every five people hates their job/work so much, that they are actively sabotaging your organization. Sounds like a crisis, doesn’t it?

OK, but here’s the part that might surprise you:

Engagement is not the problem.

We spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year in this country trying to fix the engagement problem, but in the last several years, we have failed to move the needle on our overall engagement numbers by more than a percentage point. The reason is simple: Engagement is a result.

When you measure engagement, you are documenting a state of mind among your employees that was created over a period of months or years — in the past. That means that your detailed (and depressing) picture of today’s disengaged workforce, unfortunately, gives you very little you can use to actually solve the problem. If cars start rolling off your assembly line with the steering wheel located in the back seat, you don’t come up with a plan for moving each individual steering wheel to the front seat as it comes off the line — you go back into the manufacturing process, and you fix the problem where it started.

For employee engagement, the solution lies in your culture.

It is your workplace culture that generated your poor engagement results. Period. Your workplace culture defines in no uncertain terms what is truly valued inside your workplace, and what is valued then drives behavior. Over time, those behaviors start to grate on people and sow the seeds of disengagement.

Like the fact that once you discover that a process isn’t working, you know it will take six months to a year to get it fixed, given the propensity for red tape in your organization. Like that every time you want to reach across the hall to work with someone from another department to get things done, you stop — because you know you’ll have to get permission from the boss first. Like the way you get shot down every time you ask to bring in an outside expert to share new ideas with your team because your organization doesn’t respect anything that was “not invented here.”

These building blocks of culture create disengagement because they fundamentally interfere with the success of your employees. The more misaligned your culture is with what drives your success, the more likely you will be to have disengaged employees.

So stop asking people every year if they like their benefits package and then changing the package when the color of the bar next to that question dips into the red. Go back to the “manufacturing” process. Discover what your culture is and how it gets in the way of the success of both your people and the enterprise overall. Then roll up your sleeves and start fine-tuning the alignment of culture and success. When you start fixing those problems, the engagement numbers will start to go up on their own.