3 tips to ‘power-up’ timely recognition at the workplace.

kudos_Wk47_TipsForTimelyRecognition_

Employee recognition is an extremely effective way to empower your best workers. Whether you recognize an employee with a raise or just a quick email, it’s important to let employees know when they’re doing well. However, recognition alone isn’t enough. Continue reading “3 tips to ‘power-up’ timely recognition at the workplace.”

[Video] The Lying Org-Chart

We have a new video up on the kwenchEngage! YouTube channel called “The Lying Org-Chart”.  Take a look.

A quick introduction to the power of Social Networks within organizations and how it can be unleashed to achieve better collaboration and also increase employee engagement.

References for content used in the video:

“How Org Charts Lie”, HBS Working Knowledge Series, “The Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding how  work really gets done in organizations”, HBS Press Book.

Time, Love and Tenderness at the workplace.

TLT_So you say that you can’t go on / Love Work left you cryin’/ And you say all your hope is gone/And what’s the use in tryin’/What you need is to have some faith/Shake off those sad blues/Get yourself a new view (Time,Love and Tenderness; Michael Bolton)

I took some liberties with Bolton’s lyrics and plugged work instead of love in there, but it would seem he knew much more about employee engagement, that one would have given him credit for.

Sigal Barsade, a professor at Wharton, believes that “compassionate love” at the workplace is key factor to boosting employee morale, teamwork and customer satisfaction.

So what exactly is compassionate love you ask? According to professor Barsade, it is when “Colleagues who are together day in and day out, ask and care about each other’s work and even non-work issues. They are careful of each other’s feelings. They show compassion when things don’t go well. And they also show affection and caring — and that can be about bringing somebody a cup of coffee when you go get your own, or just listening when a co-worker needs to talk.”

The first data collection that Barsade and her co-author Olivia O’Neill did was through a 16 month longitudinal study at a long-term health care facility covering 185 employees, 108 patients and 42 of the patient’s family members. The aim of the study was to, measure the effect of compassionate love on:

  • the emotional and behavioural outcomes of employees
  • the health of the patients
  • the satisfaction of the family members.

A very significant finding was that a culture of compassion reduces employees’ withdrawal from work. To further check if the findings held good in other industries, they performed another study – this one involving over 3000 employees in seven different industries. The results again showed a positive correlation of compassionate love with job satisfaction, commitment to the company and accountability for performance.

So what are the potential benefits from creating a culture that supports ‘compassionate love’?

(1)  Decreased Absenteeism (and Presenteeism):  When executives and management focus on creating a culture where employees are encouraged to listen to their co-workers and show empathy to problems the other person is facing (at work or maybe an illness in the family which is in turn affecting work performance) they create a workplace, which employees look forward to. When employees feel more comfortable and appreciated, they tend to give their best to the task on hand.

(2)  Decreased Stress levels: An additional study by O’Neill and Nancy Rothbard of Wharton involved fire-fighters. It turns out that the high stress of their job results in higher levels of work-family conflict and the study determined that compassionate love helps to buffer the effect of  job stress on other outcomes.

(3)   Increased Customer Satisfaction: The last thing a customer wants to hear is “I have passed this on to XYZ team, they will look into it” – and this is typically the response that a stressed out employee who couldn’t care less about what happens to the customer or his employer, would give. A vast majority of customer problems require coordination between employees to solve quickly and effectively. In a culture buttressed by compassionate love that coordination will happen easier than it would in a stressful, competitive or angry one.

The research does raise some points for management to think about. As Barsade puts it

“Management can do something about this. They should be thinking about the emotional culture. It starts with how they are treating their own employees when they see them. Are they showing these kinds of emotions? And it informs what kind of policies they put into place. This is something that can definitely be very purposeful — not just something that rises organically.”

References and Acknowledgements:

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

(a) Why Fostering a Culture of Compassion in the Workplace Matters, Knowledge@Wharton

Rewards that go boink! (or the folly of cash as an incentive)

Money_Trap_Mark Hanna:   The name of the game, move the money from your client’s pocket into your pocket.
Jordan Belfort:   But if you can make your clients money at the same time it’s advantageous to everyone, correct?
Mark Hanna:   No

(Dialogue from the movie ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, 2013)

I have an article on how to ‘Engage the employee with the right reward’ up on People Matters where I continue to advocate the need for companies to find the right strategy towards rewarding their employees – doling out cash bonuses just doesn’t cut it.

This post however, is more about what I left out of that article (thanks to word-count limits and the need to stay focused on the theme). At the very beginning of the article I mention in passing how the financial collapse of 2008 exposed the flaw of a cash-bonus-linked-to-sales strategy. What I did not write about was the erosion of trust that the greed of a few caused. And lets fact it – this is true about any industry, not just banking. There are plenty of examples in other sectors like call-center employees cutting short or worse hanging up on customers, because their variable pay was linked to number of calls attended rather than issues successfully resolved, engineers using short-cuts to get automobile products out faster without adequate testing or known flaws leading to catastrophic failures or in some cases deaths.

The death spiral for the company arising out of perverse incentive structures is actually quite simple:

Wrong incentive structure -> Incorrect actions by employees -> Short term spike in sales/output->A select few get rich on commissions/bonus->Medium Term/Long Term problems come home to roost->Best case – the company/product brand takes a hit, Worst case company goes belly-up.

Jordan Belfort:   My name is Jordan Belfort. The year I turned 26 I made $49 million dollars which really pissed me off because it was 3 shy of a million a week. – (Dialogue from the movie ‘The Wolf on Wall Street’)

Pre-2008 some bankers just went (massively) overboard in pushing their banks hurtling down that spiral and got the whole industry in a mess since everybody ended up doing the same shenanigans to get massive bonus payouts.

Joseph Stiglitz in his excellent article ‘In No One We Trust’ talks in depth of this erosion of trust and says

“…We had created a system of rewards that encouraged short-sighted behavior and excessive risk-taking. In fact, we had entered an era in which moral values were given short shrift and trust itself was discounted.

… Bank managers and corporate executives search out creative accounting devices to make their enterprises look good in the short run, even if their long-run prospects are compromised.”

So do we take the money-is-root-of-all-evil approach and pay people in food coupons? No. Absolutely not, but neither can leadership of companies afford to take the ‘lazy’ route to establishing a rewards strategy but just resorting to cash payouts as a percentage of profit/sales/top-line. (Remember Enron anyone? Even as the company was imploding, its executives were rewarded with large bonuses for meeting specific revenue goals.) The problem here is not only the flawed rewards structure, but something much deeper. Something for which the whole organization exists in the first place – the very raison d’etre.

The real challenge for leadership in establishing a rewards strategy – goals:

Before you worry about ‘how to reward employees’, the greater challenge is in establishing ‘what’ you are rewarding them for. “Organizational Goals!” you say and full marks to you. Employees in an organization are working on their individual goals which eventually must meld together to achieve the organizational goal.  Employees at Enron were also being paid to achieve organizational goals but in hindsight it’s obvious those goals were all wrong!

Things can also go horribly wrong when impossible goals are set because, leaders shoot their mouth off or get visions of grandeur. Let’s take a short trip back in time. It’s the late 1960’s. The Ford Motor Company was fast losing ground to more fuel efficient cars the Japanese were cranking out. Lee Iacocca, a very smart man with lots of successful launches to his credit, (and the then CEO of Ford), announced the challenge of producing a new car that would weigh less than 2000 pounds and cost less than $2000 and would be available in the market in 1970. The result: skipped safety checks on the Ford Pinto that led to cars catching fire and eventually resulted in massive law suits.

 So we now realize that organizations have a more fundamental problem – with goal setting. That goal usually filters down from the top – which brings us to an interesting conundrum. Going back to what Stiglitz has to say in his article.

“So C.E.O.’s must be given stock options to induce them to work hard. I find this puzzling: If a firm pays someone $10 million to run a company, he should give his all to ensure its success. He shouldn’t do so only if he is promised a big chunk of any increase in the company’s stock market value…”

 Research has shown that the motivation that people will have to do the right thing or blow the whistle when things are not quite going the way they should is greatly enhanced when they feel they are working for a larger purpose than just monetary gain. When the only incentive one has is money, it tends to create the ‘stretch goal’ trap. Bigger goals – Bigger reward – Bigger bank balance! Forget everything else, all ‘that’ is somebody else’s problem. The ‘Big Whale’ trades, the LIBOR fixing scandal, the recent record fines paid by JP Morgan, Enron, the list just goes on and on.

“Of course, incentives are an important component of human behavior. But the incentive movement has made them into a sort of religion, blind to all the other factors — social ties, moral impulses, compassion — that influence our conduct.” (Stiglitz)

Setting the correct goals is thus fundamental to achieving the desired output from employees. Goals that are too narrow; are too many in number or have an inappropriate time horizon which eventually result in, higher risk taking and unethical behaviour by employees in an attempt to meet those goals.

So how do we set the right goals?

This, dear reader, is the trillion dollar question. The ultimate question of life, the universe and everything – the answer as we all know is 42! There we have it. Problem Solved. 🙂

With due apologies to Douglas Adams, there is no one correct answer for this. With incorrect incentives, the chances of the goals themselves being set wrongly go up exponentially. Add to that the fact that goals when applied to teams with have varied levels of challenge for its members.

In their Working Paper, ‘Goals gone wild’, Lisa D. Ordonez et al. point this out –

“Perverse incentives can also make goal setting politically and practically problematic. When reaching pre-set goals matters more than absolute performance, self-interested individuals can strategically set (or guide their managers to set) easy-to-meet goals. By lowering the bar, they procure valuable rewards and accolades. Many company executives often choose to manage expectations rather than maximize earnings. In some cases, managers set a combination of goals that, in aggregate, appears rational, but is in fact not constructive. For example, consider a self-interested CEO who receives a bonus for hitting targets. This CEO may set a mix of easy goals (that she is sure to meet) and ‘what the hell’ difficult goals (that she does not plan to meet). On average, the goal levels may seem appropriate, but this mix of goals may generously reward the CEO (when she meets the easy goals) without motivating any additional effort when the goals are difficult.”

Goal setting and the consequent rewards strategy are closely intertwined. Your rewards strategy might be well thought out, meaningful and beautifully executed but if they are being handed out for the wrong goals, it will still be meaningless in the long run. Rather than taking the easy way out of boiling the organizations goals down to the revenue numbers and profit figures of billions of dollars, its time leaders spent more time establishing meaningful goals that are aligned with the long term interest of the organization and all its share-holders.

The alternative of continuing with status-quo on goals and incentives is a scary proposition. Already there are rumblings of real estate and investment bubbles building up in South East Asian economies as a consequence of the Fed tapering. Another large financial shock just might be the proverbial last-straw on the camel’s back. On the positive side, we might get a few more entertaining movies.

References and acknowledgements for this post:

‘In no one we trust’, Joseph E. Stiglitz, NYTimes, 12 December 2013, Goals gone wild: The systematic side effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting, Lisa D. Ordonez and others, HBS Working Paper, 09-083, Image used in this post courtesy of Free Digital Photos.

Join the VLZ Webinar on ‘Leveraging Social Media for Employee Engagement’

VLZ_Jan2014_Mailer_v1_(3)Sign up for the 1st Virtual Learning Zone (VLZ) in 2014 where we will explore the topic of Leveraging Social  Media for Employee Engagement.

To register click here

The Speaker:

Anand PillaiAnand Pillai

Senior Vice President and Chief Learning Officer,

Reliance Industries Limited.

 

About the session:

In-house social platforms can help build new approaches to collaboration, co-creation, and act as a crucial tacit-knowledge attractor & collector. Organizations are increasingly using the secret sauce called “Social Media” in different ways to influence employee engagement and dramatically accelerate problem solving, productivity, and innovation.

Businesses bank on “good ideas” and it’s now within every business’s grasp to dramatically accelerate this process using social media. Good ideas will still originate from talented individuals, but now these ideas can be amplified and expanded with remarkable efficiency. Social Media should become a part of your “business as usual” – by employees becoming the voice of your brands – and that’s when you will say you have achieved optimum employee engagement!

Attendee seats are limited. Please register early. Registrations are on a first-come-first-serve basis and will be closed as soon as all the slots are filled.

To register click here

or paste the following URL into your browser:

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/9049772700532392705

Webinar ID: 153-194-035

Building a high-energy work environment

_Workplace_Motivation_Usually when people think of an office buzzing with energy with everyone in the ‘zone’ they think of start-ups. Small office, people sitting where they can, cheap furniture, lots of wires criss-crossing the floor from all the machines lying helter-skelter all around. For the record, the first “office” ‘kwench had was a living room and we had one-plastic table and a plastic chair (for guests).

Large offices with cubicle farms, cafeterias, grand lobbies typically evoke mental images of power and a large process oriented machine at work rather than energy.
Good generalizations for stock photography and movie plots, but hardly the reality. The energy you feel in start-ups doesn’t come from sitting on the floor or having doors as desktops, it comes from the motivation levels of those working there. Similarly the fluorescent lighting in the swank offices of a large organization isn’t sucking out the creative energy of the workforce, something else is.

There is a default environment in a young start-up that larger organizations with hierarchies, departments and processes need to consciously implement. The magic-dust that transforms a workplace into a high-energy work environment is, engagement.

Component_Target_In the book Employee Engagement, W Macey et. al, write that there are there are four components (or aspects as some would prefer to call it) held with the glue of engagement, that need to come together – – to enable a creative and motivating work environment. What follows is a slightly modified list.

(a) Employees should have the liberty to engage: ‘But who is stopping them?’ you ask. The answer, is ‘most likely – everything.’ Companies have processes and set rules to ensure that things get delivered on time with the required accuracy and this definitely is a good thing. But it is not the best thing. Employees following set processes and delivering as promised drive customer satisfaction; engaged employees deliver customer delight. But they should have the liberty to do so. The organization should be tolerant of creative solutions and possible failure – a confidence that failure will be treated “fairly”. If deviation from processes is always punished, innovation is unlikely to ever happen in your workplace.

(b) Employees should have the capability to engage: So you set the ground rules in your workplace and encourage the team to go the extra mile. But nothing seems to happen. They seem to be just doing what they have been doing all along! What gives? In order for people to really make a difference they should also have access to the required knowledge/information. If all the information is locked away on a “need-to-know” basis chances are very few will actually “know”.  Once you provide your employees the liberty to engage, support it by creating an open environment where they have access to information, where they get timely and open feedback on their work, and have the confidence that the organization will provide full support with everything they need to meet their goals.

 (c) Employees should have the motivation to engage:  An average employee spends 10-12 of their waking hours at work, add a couple more for getting to work and back. That’s 12-14 hours, of the 18 hours they are awake, away from their family. It’s important that you give them a very good reason to do so. When you provide the liberty and set the ground for capability for employees to engage within the workplace, the onus largely lies on the employee to step up and capitalize on the freedom. To motivate them however, the onus lies on the organization. Multiple surveys have shown that employees are most disengaged because they lack clear and specific goals and timely recognition for work done. From the organization perspective the requirements are clear (and fairly simple). Match the employees to the right roles – provide clear achievable goals – provide an open environment where the information required to deliver results is available – provide timely feedback and recognition.  When people have a sense of belonging and recognition of incremental progress they are making towards a larger, complex goal – motivation levels go up automatically.

 (d) Establish a transparent way of working to enable engagement: Once you have set up the first three layers, you have to enable positive reinforcement through an open and transparent culture. Make recognition public – this has a strong element of positive feedback and also ensures that there is no feeling of favoritism. Enable Peer-recognition and evaluation systems – Peers are usually in the best position to know exactly what work has been done. When the goals are clear, the combined effect of mini-evaluations over a period of time is more powerful and accurate than any detailed annual-appraisal can ever hope to be.  Be tolerant of open networks within the organization – enable a free flow of conversation and be open to constructive criticism. Typically social networks formed for a purpose tend to be focused and self-regulating. Any deviations are usually dealt with by the group without the need for active monitoring by a ‘higher authority’.

Engagement is what enables your employees to “see the big picture” and align their goals with that of the organization. But on a day-to-day basis it’s the work environment that provides the impetus for your employees to engage (or in the other extreme – disengage).

It is tempting to conclude that the onus lies on the senior leadership of an organization to do everything from establishing organizational business targets to driving an open and engaging work-culture to make sure those goals get met. While they have a large role to play, in a dynamic marketplace, waiting for senior leadership to decide every small detail is suicidal. The best way is be open and involve employees’ right from the planning process for establishing the organizations goals/targets for the year and continue to engage them throughout.

At 3M, one the world’s most innovative companies, the HR team provides the tools and processes but it’s the individual managers and supervisors who are in charge of engagement at the employee level. Accountability for establishing a culture of engagement at the workplace is done by embedding engagement into the list of leadership competencies. The company provides managers with engagement scores on company-wide surveys making employee engagement a key strategy to establishing competitive advantage in the marketplace.

References and Acknowledgements:

The “What” and “Why” of Goal Pursuits: Human Needs and the Self-Determination of Behavior, Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan Department of Psychology, University of Rochester; Work Redesign and Motivation, J.Richard Hackman, Driving Performance and Retention through Employee Engagement, Corporate Leadership Council, Employee Engagement, Macey et al, Wiley Blackwell; Creating an engaged workplace, CIPD Report, January 2010.

Image1 and Image2 used in this post courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net.

Mission Impossible – ‘Presenteeism’ Protocol

Disengaged_Gap_The world of banking has a term it dreads – NPA (Non-Performing Assets). These typically refer to loans that are at high risk of default.

Your employees are your most precious assets and their best performance is what you bank on to make the organization thrive. The Towers-Watson Global Workforce Study 2012 surveyed over 32,000 full-time workers across the globe and found that only 35% were highly engaged. The rest?

22% felt they were unsupported.

17% were detached.

And a whopping 26% were disengaged.

If you were a bank with over 25% of your assets at risk, the central bank would be all over you with audits, stress-tests and maybe even cancel your license.

If were a manufacturing firm with 25% of your plants breaking down all the time and hardly producing anything, you would declare the units sick and fix them or close them down.

If you were an airline with 25% of your planes flying practically empty you would reroute, optimize, or shut down the routes.

And yet even though over a quarter of your employees are disengaged, you still hope to meet your financial and business goals without a clear well-thought out employee engagement strategy.  Time to call Ethan Hunt?

References and Acknowledgements

The Towers-Watson Global Workforce Study 2012; Post title inspired from the Mission Impossible movie series; Image courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net.

Presenteeism: “One central consequent of presenteeism is productivity loss, and scholars have attempted to estimate these productivity numbers. While examining productivity decrements, however, it is implied that losses are measured relative to not having a particular sickness or health issue. Furthermore, in comparison to being absent from a job, those exhibiting presenteeism may be far more productive. Nonetheless, a large study by Goetzel et al. estimated that on average in the United States, an employee’s presenteeism costs or lost on-the-job productivity are approximately $255.” (source: wikipedia)

How to (not) create an engagement monster

_kwench_Engagement_Monster_Image_1You get an intern over for a few months. Ask her to google “employee engagement strategy” and make a report. She makes a laundry list of things that engaged companies seem to be doing. Borrow 10 techniques each from the top three most engaged companies on the global list that seem easy enough to do – Hand out a few badges, give a few vouchers, put a smiley sticker or two, spam everyone with “Thank-You’s” and voila – engaged employees all around, right?

Wrong!

Read the full post

Annual Appraisals: It’s time to move on!

Centrality_Crowd_

To martyr yourself to caution/ is not going to help at all / because there’ll be no safety in numbers / when the right one walks out of the door

[Lost for Words, Pink Floyd]

Every year, around March-April there is a flurry of mails from HR reminding people to complete their appraisal inputs. Team members are exhorted to fill in their self ratings by the deadline, and then managers are hounded by HR to complete their ratings of their teams. A few days later all the managers are invited to a day-long meeting to do the dreaded ‘curve fitting’- since the logic goes that ratings of individuals on teams no matter how good or small should fit a normal distribution. (Those meetings can sometimes turn violent too when the fitting doesn’t go too well) Weeks later the ratings are communicated to the employees and that’s when the resignations start. A popular joke goes that moving companies record their maximum revenue for the year in the weeks right after annual appraisals are completed in companies.

Continue reading “Annual Appraisals: It’s time to move on!”

Happiness: the ‘new’ productivity driver

_kwench_happiness_driver_blogPostThe latest topic of interest at B-schools interestingly has little to do with finance or advanced operations management and has more to do with the ‘well-being’ of the workforce in companies. ‘Human Flourishing’ or ‘Subjective Well-being’ as some of the Prof’s put it, but ‘Happiness’ to most of us.

Research is now showing that contrary to the popular belief – ‘pressure drives productivity’, it is happiness at the workplace that makes good business sense. Happy employees, it turns out, tend to be healthier, more creative at finding solutions to problems and generally more productive.
Continue reading “Happiness: the ‘new’ productivity driver”