Performance Review Time – Should You Keep Doing Them?

 

Its the beginning of the New Year and many companies may be getting ready to produce their employees’ annual performance reviews, so I’m sure the topic of whether or not its worth the time has started to come up.

There are a lot of different opinions out there as to whether or not companies should still be doing “performance reviews” for their employees.  Some say its too time consuming in this day and age.  Others say employees don’t really care because all they want to hear about is a raise.  And even more say that there’s just no purpose anymore.

I disagree.

Performance Reviews are more than just a “necessary evil we have to do once a year.”  Its an opportunity for the manager and the employee to have an open discussion on the employee’s work performance and continued employment with the company.

Today’s employees aren’t building lifelong careers with any one company anymore.  In fact, studies are out that actual encourage employees to change jobs every 3-4 years.  That “job-hopping” that used to be frowned upon in the past now…its acceptable and expected.  Turnover in a company does more than create open positions and slow down production for a short time – it costs the company money.  Money that has to be spent on recruiting the new employee and then training the new employee before they are ready to perform the job by themselves.  Companies that properly use “performance reviews” are able to control that amount of turnover and, quite possibly, find they have employees that they can promote from within again.

Employees today, more than ever, want to know what they are doing right, what they are doing wrong and what they can do to advance in the company.  Not communicating with the employee shows them that the company doesn’t care about them or their career path and before long, their performance will start to drop.    A negative attitude will develop…employees will begin missing work or coming in late as dedication to the job begins to slide.  By the time their manager finally does come around to giving them a review, all they will focus on is the employee’s poor performance – taking no ownership in the fact that they themselves contributed to the problem.

Performance reviews are basically feedback we give our employees.  While many managers claim it takes too much time and limit it to once a year, it actually should take place more often during the year.  The biggest complaint employees have about the process when its only annual is the manager will only focus on what he or she has done recently.  So, if they were a star employee for 9 months but the last 3 months ran into issues because of family problems, for example, the manager will typically use that as the focal point and the review will talk about how they “need to improve their attendance and performance.”  No wonder employees get frustrated!

If you decide this year to change how you do things and turn it into shorter, but quarterly reviews, the goals you set for the employee will seem more attainable – setting them up for success instead of failure – because you will be discussing the progress throughout the year as issues are coming up.  What you are truly showing your employee is that the two of you are working together as a “team.”

Keep in mind – feedback sessions do not have to be formal reviews.  Call it a “strategy meeting” or “career planning” if it makes it easier for you not to label it a “performance review.”  You will sit down your entire department to talk about a goal and strategize how to accomplish it.  Well, why not do the same with your employees?

These sessions should be two-way feedback sessions with your employees also sharing their observations, expectations and suggestions for both personal and company improvement.  Remember – while you are focused on managing these employees, they are the ones carry out the tasks and will have more insight into the effectiveness of the plans you have put into place.

Talk about what additional training the employee should also look into and whether or not the company would be willing to absorb the cost.  Let them research training and classes on their own to show you how serious they are about improving themselves.  Not all employees will be motivated to do so and that’s okay.  The point is that you created the opportunity for it to exist and by including it in a performance review session, you also have a speaking point to come back to in future sessions.

You don’t need fancy programs or long forms to fill out – keep it simple and stick to only what’s relevant:

  • Attendance and punctuality
  • Quality of work produced
  • Communication skills: following directions, asking questions, offering help
  • Knowledge of the job
  • Interaction with customers and other employees

And then, set some goals:

  • What is the specific goal as it applies to the employee (not overall for the department)
  • Give a timeline of when you want to see the goals completed
  • What training will the company assist them with or help them find to complete the task
  • What are your expectations: that the employee let you know how things are going, ask for help when needed, make suggestions for changes along the way

That’s it!  Let them know how you feel they are performing right now, what areas you would like to see them improve in and what goals you would like them to work toward before the next discussion.  You are creating a positive and growing environment for the employee and “a happy employee = a productive employee!”

Bonus: By following this method, if an employee’s performance starts to deteriorate and the company decides to end their employment, you now how documentation to show that you (as the company) did try to help the employee improve and can show that the company offered their part in helping improve the matter. 

 

What If The Motivator Needs Motivating?

You see all kinds of articles and comments about how a “good leader motivates their people.”  Leaders, Managers and even HR folks are tasked with solving problems which include improving morale and motivating others…but who motivates them?

As a HR professional, my entire career has been dedicated to helping improve my workplaces and grow my employees.  I listen to the “problems” that they have trying to offer solutions.  I serve as a sounding board when a manager has a problem with an employee and needs to both vent and find a solution.  I keep an “open door” for employees to come talk to me about their frustrations with the job and/or their manager looking for help to change things before they give up and decide to look for another job.  I joke that I am the “company counselor” at times…and even have a couch in my office now.

But, not once throughout my whole career, have any of those managers (or even my manager) stopped to think about whether I needed motivation or not.  Its almost as it they just assume that when you job is to motivate others, the very act of successfully helping others should be motivating enough.

Don’t get me wrong – I do have a passion to help people…but I also want to be happy at my job as well.  Just like them, I hit my low points as well when the “venting” becomes overwhelming, when complaints the employees share are the same ones I have as well but I’m at a loss to do anything about it and I know it…are times when I wish I had someone to vent to as well!

So, time for you to stop and take a look around you for a moment.

Who are the people that you know that are always motivating others? 

Who are the “cheerleaders” in your life…both personally and professionally? 

When is the last time you asked them how they were doing or cheered them on?

You may think “but they are a manager” or “they are in HR and can’t talk about what’s bothering them” and you may be right, but stopping to have a 10min conversation or inviting them out to lunch one day may give them the break in the day that they need to shake off what’s eating at them and be able to focus on helping others again.  The ones that are always motivating others are the ones that need a push the hardest to take a break before they snap or crash.

If you are one of those motivators…keep in mind that those that vent to you either don’t know how to return the favor or can’t because they just aren’t capable of it.  That’s why you are a valuable asset!

To keep from hitting frustration or burnout, there are two things that I have found helpful when I felt I had no one else to turn to: 1) go for a walk and listen to some music, and 2) pick a new hobby to try that will require your attention to carry out.

I am lucky enough to work along a lakefront so when things get overwhelming, I go out for a walk for 10min just to “get out” and clear my mind.  It gives me enough time for a brain re-set that allows me to come back to the office ready to try again.  I also decided to explore photography last year – learning different techniques and trying out the different “30 day challenges” that I have found. Then, I look at the photos afterwards to see if they tell a story that I didn’t notice when looking through the lens.  It shuts out my day and gives me something else to focus on.

And of course, don’t rule out family and friends!  They may not understand what you are going through, but they will listen, try to get you out for a while to unwind and cheer you on when you need that extra boost.  Even the best motivator can benefit from a support system.

Are You Grooming A “Mini-Me”?


“Talent Management” is one of those buzz words flying around lately and everyone will have their own definition of what it is and how they approach it in their company, but in my view Talent Management is just the upgraded version of Mentoring.

Mentoring to me isn’t assigning an experienced employee to a new employee to help them learn the ropes and integrate into the company quicker.  Mentoring is “coaching and training one’s replacement.”  Remember when we were told to do that?  That we should always be training the person that will replace us so that we can move forward in our own careers?

In today’s job market, there may be plenty of applicants to choose from but the best practice has (and should still be) to promote from within first when you have an open position to fill.  Let’s talk the reason why this should be a company’s “best practice”:

  • It takes less time to bring a current employee up to speed with company goals and expectations that a new employee because they will already be vested in the company and ready to hit the ground running.
  • There is also less time spent getting the remaining employees to accept the “new” person in the role as they won’t be viewed as an “outsider” trying to change things from how they have always been.
  • You spent the time and money to train this person when they were a new employee initially so you are saving that money promoting from within.
  • Today’s employees aren’t staying at companies for years on end when they don’t feel that there is some potential for growth, so promoting from within satisfies their desire to grow while saving the company money associated with recruiting an outside person.
  • Promoting from within will also show the remaining employees that your company truly cares about them and their growth – so you win loyalty points from them as well.
  • Finally, its creates the type of company culture – a company that cares – that will also help attract future employees when you are ready to hire from the outside.

Will this approach always be the best fit? Obviously, not as it will depend on the position itself, the company’s need and the pool of talent you have.  But, if you haven’t been practicing this type of “grooming” in your workplace, you may have no idea what skills or talent are already on your payroll!

If your employees know that they may be considered for open positions now or in the future, you will find:

  • Employee productivity will likely pick up as they set out to try and prove themselves in their roles.
  • Employees will be more open to share their ideas and suggestions for change and improvement in the workplace – up to and including new positions they feel should be created to help benefit the company.
  • Some employees may even seek outside skills training (at their own expense) to improve their position in applying for one of these open roles.

So, as you are reviewing or creating your “Talent Management Program” at your company, remember that in addition to reviewing your job descriptions, recruiting strategies, performance reviews and training programs that you have added this long last art of “mentoring” back into your program.

Exhaustion: The Latest “Status Symbol”

I have been following the work of Brene Brown, Research Professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.  She spent over 10 years studying the topics of shame and vulnerability in an effort to help uncover how we can find our inner courage and be more authentic in today’s world.

In one of her talks, she spoke about how part of her research work involved going to a popular office building in downtown Houston and just riding the elevator up and down to listen to the interactions of the employees in that building.  The one story she shared was about two law firm employees and their interaction with each other.  One talked about having to work til the wee hours of the morning on a project.  When this person asked the other person when they left work for the day, the other’s response was that they hadn’t left the office yet (since the day before).

While it may seem immature that two co-workers were having a “one-up” conversation with each other, the truth is that many employees today do think that to be considered valuable and successful in their careers that they have to work themselves to the point of exhaustion.

Can we really blame them for this perception or do companies need to take ownership of the fact that they are the ones that created this status symbol?

Think about it – Employers see that the main advantage to putting an employee on “salary” is that you aren’t tied to limiting their hours for the week since you don’t have to pay them overtime.  Many employers have gone so far as to expect their employees to be available even after hours and weekends for phone calls, emails, special projects…whatever is needed.

And, consequently, many of these salaried employees will do whatever their employer wants because they fear 1) loss of status in a management or leadership position if they aren’t working “harder” or 2) loss of employment.  These employees sacrifice family and personal time to keep on top of whatever their jobs needs…not to make sure the work is carried out and completed but to make sure they remain in good graces with their employer.  Hence, working themselves into exhaustion!

Now, from a business standpoint, the recent announcement from the Department of Labor concerning the proposed changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act concerning overtime will play a huge role in attacking this status symbol as companies have to re-categorize exempt employees and pay for the overtime they have been getting for free.  While some companies will, obviously, still encourage overtime – especially if they can pass on the cost to their customers or clients – but the pressure to work more just to impress the boss should find some relief.

From an HR standpoint, we should never make employees feel obligated to work  themselves to death just to make an impression to the boss or keep their job.  Shame on companies for doing that!  Expecting employees to work excessive hours, breaking into their personal and family time, should not be an expectation…as if it is some “right of passage” to promote within a company.  With all the technological advances we have made in business in the last 20 years alone, we now have two scenarios: 1) work doesn’t require as many “man hours” as it once did so there is additional pressure on employees to “look busy” and 2) things such as “smartphones” (especially if they are company-issued or paid for) give employers the excuse they can contact employees they want.

So, how do we start to reverse that?

As HR professionals, we have to start pushing for management to turn their focus off of “quantity” and back on to “quality.”  It has to start with the top down or middle managers will keep that stigma going.  How can we “maneuver” that?  Two ways come to mind: 1) hold an informational session with management to talk about this issue, how they shouldn’t be encouraging it and how it can actually hurt the company in the long-run (not just in financial costs but in employee morale) and then 2) establish (or promote if already available) any programs or incentives aimed at work-life balance or family values (such as after-hours contact guidelines, time off for family events – not just emergencies, paid “volunteer days,” etc).

The point of any program you put into place is to make both the employee and their supervisor understand that you don’t want them spending all their waking hours thinking about or doing work.  They need to know that it is okay to set boundaries.  Once employees begin to see they aren’t being penalized for “having a life” outside of work, the trend will begin to correct itself…we just need to have that conversation to get the ball rolling.

Do You “Motivate” Or Do You “Inspire”?

When we talk about “performance,” our minds automatically go to “how to we improve performance.”  It’s always on the mind of every leader or manager that has a team under them.  We think by coming up with ways of improving performance that it will translate into happier and more productive sub-ordinates.  For the majority of individuals, this is true – however, it’s the steps and processes that most people use that end up not working or even back-firing.

Think about it…

We “measure” performance.  How well or how bad an individual performs at their job is evaluated by a set of pre-determined factors.  We “rate” them based on these factors as a result of our perception of how they are conducting themselves.  We will talk about specifics that apply to their assigned job, segments that they are “required” to excel at in order to maintain their job.  Then we also rate them on: communication, problem-solving, loyalty, etc.  Its like we have some version of the “ideal employee” that we use these evaluations to compare them to or try to mold them into.

Why Performance Reviews suck…

There is a lot of talk about doing away with performance reviews for a variety of reasons.  I personally don’t think we should, but that we should look at re-evaluating how we use them and definitely increasing them from only once a year tied in with a person’s raise.  It is nearly impossible to accurately rate someone based on a year’s worth of performance only once a year…I mean, who really remembers all the details?  If you do something wrong, its probably been brought up already during a disciplinary discussion.  This is why even employees don’t value a performance review.  The only reason why they push to get one is because of the expectation that a raise will be forthcoming as well.

Most managers don’t want to be bothered with a performance review: “takes too much time,” “I don’t know what to write” or even “if they just do their job, then why do I need to go over it.”  The whole concept of assigning future goals and milestones to help an employee improve or excel is lost on most managers.  When they are told to do them, they just want to get through them as quick as possible.

How We Motivate…

Sit back and look at your workplace and even how you conduct yourself.  How do you – whether you are a manager or not – motivate others? Are you being positive in your approach or adding to the negative?  Do you put an employee’s job on notice if they aren’t performing to your expectations?

The #1 way managers “think” they are motivating their employees: Give them a task above or outside their scope of duties and tell them you want to see what they can do with it.  And here’s the problem with that – your “motivation” is attaching an expectation which, in turn, attaches an expectation from the individual on what you will do in return.  That’s not motivating – that’s haggling.

What Inspires You?…

Call it “new-age” talk if you want but have you noticed at up-swing in articles and phrases like: “what inspires you,” “focus on your passion” and even “pursue your dreams.”  Its all over the place as people are getting away from the robotic feeling of going to work and doing the same thing day in and day out.  One takeaway from the 2008 market crash is that more and more people are focusing less on the almighty paycheck and more on creating a happy life for themselves.

When I used to volunteer with a youth group, my role was not to motivate them to become better people but to inspire them to test their own limits and find what really grabs their interest.  Yes, I would give them guidelines and goals but I also let them spread their wings and bring me new ideas or try different things.  I was more the net to catch them along their way.  I watched teenagers who were once wall-flowers that, after I pushed them a little outside their comfort zone, blossomed into passionate public speakers that then went on to do the same for the new members coming on aboard.

Inspire To Perform…

Companies can’t depend on loyalty anymore to keep their employees nor can they think throwing money at them will make them stay.  You are also creating limits to what you employees can dream or create when you pigeon-hole them into a set of expectations or standards to follow.  If you really want to improve performance, take the leash off and focus on encouraging them to share their thoughts and creations.  You may find new methods they offer benefit the company even more and you will finally see that “spark” in their eye where its not just a job anymore, its their passion…and they will WANT to succeed.

Are Your Employees Planning a Mutiny?

Think about this…
Are your employees showing up to work late consistently? Are they more “on edge” or angry all the time?  Are they making more mistakes that usual?  Are their “attitudes” now affecting how they handle your customers? Are they just getting through the day so they can go home?
These are all RED FLAGS trying to get your attention! Ignoring it won’t make it go away and disciplining your employees won’t correct it.  But there is a simple way to reverse the trend = Introduce some play time!
What are the biggest problems companies face concerning employees right now?
  1. Absenteeism
  2. Poor morale
  3. Poor productivity
  4. Workplace violence
What is the common cause of each? = Stress!!
When we talk about incorporating “Play Time” into the workplace, it simply means incorporating some fun into the daily work routine to break up the mundane routine of the day.  Let’s not forget, most of us will spend more time at work during the week than with family, friends or just outside activities.
What will “play time” do for the employee? It helps alleviate some of the daily stress, especially during high peak seasons, which helps improves employee morale.  It can become overwhelming for an employee if he/she doesn’t have an avenue to release the daily stress build-up, especially if they go home to more of it.  You invested your time and money into hiring and training these employees, so why not put as much effort into keeping them?
First argument I expect to hear is: “employees need to earn their paychecks by working the full amount of time” or “an employee’s focus should be on how many billable hours they can pump out on a daily basis.” Do NOT think of this as “slack off” time.  Am I expecting companies to pay employees for time to just goof off? Okay, in a way, yes! But, think of the long-term payoff regarding employee morale and performance simply because the company set aside a small amount of time each day for stress relief.
What are some examples you can do in the workplace?
  • Community Service projects
  • Walk/Run Fitness challenges (sponsor a group for a local 5k!)
  • Desk Massages / Manicure Mondays
  • On-site fitness facilities
  • Company sponsored sports such as Softball or Volleyball
  • Company-wide learning classes….such as Cooking or Photography classes
Let’s break down a couple of the examples to you can see the benefits:
Community service = An activity either on-site or off can break the tension of the workday and build a sense of teamwork among your employees. For example: Organize a food drive or holiday cards/care packages to send to our troops. Employees like the distraction from their everyday duties plus it makes them feel good knowing they are doing something to help others. And in some cases, companies can also publicize their employees’ efforts – so it becomes free advertising for the company.
Early morning or lunch time workout = Ask one of the employees to lead a brief 20-30min workout session that can be as simple as a 1k walk or a weight loss contest. Remember that line from Legally Blonde about working out – “working out gives you endorphins and endorphins make people happy!” It also helps improve your employees’ health which, in turn, helps decrease costs associated with the company’s health insurance when it comes to renewal time.  See…another win-win!
What will adding “fun” to the work day really help do?
  • Reduce sick time taken…including those “mental health” days that employees partake in more and more these days.
  • Improve employee retention. It shows the employees that the company is truly interested in them and their well-being.  When employees feel appreciated – they are happy!  And happy employees don’t start looking for other jobs…even if they wish they had more pay.
  • Helps to recruit new employees. A happy employee will tell others about how great their job is…and others will want to work for you! Jobseekers today know that most companies aren’t using job boards as much as they used to in the past and rely on networking and referrals. Because employees are more likely to only refer those candidates that they truly feel are a fit for the company, you have cut down on advertising and time-to-fill costs because candidates are being brought to you!
But, for Play Time to “catch on” and be effective, the Employer needs to let their employees that it fully suports this new “way to work”.  If employees worry that they will be looked at poorly if they participate, they won’t give it a try.  So, it is imperative that you not only promote some “fun” in the workplace, but let them know you WANT them to participate in it.  Here’s an idea: Lead by example = YOU get out there and show them how to have fun during the day!
Remember: Happy Employees = Productive Employees

Are Disgruntled Employees Really A “Lost Cause”?

Let’s face it – between “life” issues and work, we find many of today’s employees are disgruntled in one way or another.  For some, the situation is temporary…for others, it becomes a daily attitude they display.  But, does that mean you – as the Employer – should take the stance of either reprimanding them for their “poor work performance” or just wait and hope that they will quit?  Are these once valuable employees dispensable now that they have a “bad attitude”?

I had an instance once where a manager approached me soon after starting with the company to talk about “how do we get rid of this employee.”  The employee in question had been doing her job, as expected, but wasn’t giving 100% anymore and was always walking around complaining about how she hated her job now.  I was taken back by the manager’s request to “find” a way to get rid of her…implying that we had just cause based on her attitude and slack in performance.

Because I was raised to believe that there are two sides to every story and the truth is somewhere in between, I decided to approach the employee and have an informal talk with her.  I wanted to hear her side of the story and see if there was more to the situation that could possibly be fixed.

She had no problem sharing her frustrations with me, as you could imagine, but the information she shared was eye opening.  She talked about not liking the position for a while and trying to talk to her manager about possibly moving into another role but repeatedly told “you just need to change your attitude.”  She told me she had offered suggestions for projects she could start and work on but was always told “no” without her manager giving her the chance to hear her out.  Then, her perception was that the manager just “had it out for her” as a female because the male employees that came to work in the department appeared to get the better tasks and projects to work on…even those that were brand new!

That last revelation – and her perception of how she was being treated – happens quite often…once a manager decides they don’t think you are a fit as an employee but you are still doing your job so they have no real “cause” to terminate you, they will begin to engage in tactics to “get the employee to quit.”  It borderlines a “hostile work environment” in many cases and some employees have gone on to pursue legal action against the company as a result (which most managers never believe the employee will do).

I decided to ask her what were the suggestions she had that she tried to offer…part out of curiosity and part because my opinion is that the company owed her that much – to at least hear her out.  The next 20min was amazing!  She had seen a need for a new position within the department that would help organize sales and process orders much quicker…and she felt she was the right person for the job.

So, I challenged her: come up with your own job description along with any training, equipment, etc that you would need to setup and carry out the job and, together, we will pitch it to the manager.  She did and the manager was hesitant but said he would let her give it a try for the next 30days.  If it didn’t work out, then she was back in her original role.

The end result: The employee remained in the position for 3 years!  What she envisioned was possible and the manager even commented later on to me that he was pleased in the turn-around in her attitude.

Morale of the story: Perception can be the devil.  You never really know the situation or possible solutions until you sit down and have a simple conversation with that employee.  If that is the “first step” you take as a manager to dissolve the situation with a disgruntled employee, a solution may be found much sooner before attitudes deteriorate or performance slacks.  If you aren’t open to listening to the employee, don’t be surprised when the start “coping an attitude!”

Sometimes, it may even benefit you to enlist the help of a third-party.  Having your HR professional talk to the employee in a less defensive environment may diffuse the situation.  They are also in a better position to talk to the employee about changing they can make to help their situation or suggest that maybe moving on to another company will make them happier.

A disgruntled employee doesn’t have to be a lost cause!  Remember: you hired them for a reason.  They were your top choice at one time and you viewed them as an asset to the company.  You put time and money into training them and getting them up to speed so they could be successful at their position.  Don’t throw in the towel without giving one last try – a “real” try with an open mind.  You might just surprise yourself.

Jumping on the “Employee Engagement” Bandwagon: Part 3

You’ve talked to or surveyed your employees to find out what they would like to see around the office that would make them feel more appreciated or part of the “team.”  You researched different Employee Engagement programs to find out which ones could be implemented right away and at little to no cost to the company.  Now, here in Part 3, we will talk about the “how” to keep your employees engaged once you launch these programs.

Even the best thought-up programs have to be managed and monitored in order to truly have a long-term impact on the organization.  That means having someone dedicated to “running” the program, making changes and adjustments as time goes on, and updates management on the progress and how they can help improve participation.

Keep in mind, as well, that these types of changes to engagement aren’t going to be realized overnight or even 2-3 months down the line…you are looking at possibly 6-12 months before you can truly gauge whether or not the program is having the overall impact that you were hoping for.  Yes, getting people involved in the beginning and sticking to it will give you an idea early on if its working or even being welcomed, but don’t give up right away.  Tweak some things, change how you communicate, when the programs are being held, etc. before you throw in the towel.

So, how does management keep employees “engaged” in these engagement programs?
1) Don’t micro-manage them

2) Don’t make them feel obligated to be a part of it

3) Practice some simple “best practices”

As a Manager, your best practices should be:

  • Communicate – Get out from behind the text messages and email notifications and go talk to your employees. That human touch makes a much bigger impact and will encourage your employees to share more with you that you can use to change or improve not just these engagement programs but general day-to-day tasking.
  • Provide basic training (if needed) – Don’t just assume that people will know what to do or how to approach their fellow employees when getting these programs off the ground. Basic training can be something as simple as showing them how to advertise or set up group emailing…all depends on the program being initiated.
  • Develop your people – This is where you go to those employees you wouldn’t normally think of putting in charge and let them spread their wings. Support them, let others know that you have them leading the programs, check-in with them from time to time on progress…most will shock you at how well they do, once given the chance.
  • Recognize your employees – This is most important! Yes, the personal “thanks” and “great job” are still a necessity but make the time to also recognize them publicly…company announcement, newsletter with quote and picture and even during a company-wide meeting.
  • Encourage teamwork – Its natural for the other employees to feel they don’t have to step up and help, so communicate why the company is doing these programs and how you would like to see these programs as “special project teams” that share success stories. Ask them for suggestions and feedback as the programs are on-going and hold “team meetings” to talk about, from their point of view as the “user,” what changes can be made or things added to make them even more successful.
  • Last, but not least, ACT on their feedback! – The quickest way to shoot down any program or idea is for management to listen but then not follow-up or make any changes. Even if it is determined that no changes will be made, communicate that and explain why.  Remember – employee “buy-in” comes from them feeling that are truly a part of the success and not just an employee doing just what they are told.

Knowing the make-up of your particular company and what your employees would like to see, and then creating programs based around that rather than following the “most popular” programs, makes it much easier for these programs to be a long-term success.  What will start as simply making the employees feel good about being part of the company will quickly transform into company pride and dedication…factors in today’s workforce that have been thought to be lost.  It can be brought back – for the “right” reasons – with just a little investment, time and determination.

Jumping on the “Employee Engagement” Bandwagon: Part 2

In Part 1, we talked about first getting to know what your employees would like to see.  Here in Part 2, we will talk about some general ideas to consider integrating into your workplace.  While there are plenty of different options available, sometimes its best to start with some simple ideas and let the company build upon it once you see how welcoming the employees are to these new “perks.”

Today’s employees want to know and feel that their work matters…regardless of what generation they fall into.  They want to be known as a vital member of the team and not just overhead getting a paycheck.  If a company isn’t meeting their other “needs” (respect, growth, recognition, etc), then employee “disengagement” leads to low morale and a focus on …money.  And here is where a company can start spiraling downward.

So, how can an Employee Engagement plan help?

We heard all about “work life balance” these past couple of years, but the truth is its all about work-life integration now.  Smartphones keep us in contact 24/7 not just with voice and text but now emails and social media.  We’re not just “connected” to close friends and family because we now have co-workers, acquaintances, mentors, etc. as part of our life “circle” thanks to social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. We can’t honestly expect a true separation anymore between work and home life.

So, engaging your employees is more than just finding ways to make them “happy” at work…its about finding ways to incorporate their passion and creativity into the workplace.  While the hope is that these different programs will increase work performance, employer loyalty and even generate profitable ideas, don’t make decisions based solely on that.  When employees feel “heard,” their talents used and recognized and a sense of teamwork returns, you will shift the work environment to where performance will naturally increase.

What are some ideas to consider?

There are so many different articles out there that talk about different engagement programs that you may feel a bit overwhelmed reading them over and thinking how to make them work at your workplace.  When I looked many of them over, I looked for things that were simple but would have the quickest return:

  • Look for resources already available to you…for free!

Many Healthcare providers also provide free workshops and seminars on a variety of topics, not just health.  Take a look at see how often they will provide one to your company and what other topics they offer.  Some offer programs such as: Stress Management, Debt Reduction, Wellness Coaching, etc.

  • Review (or Create) Work-Life Options

Does your company have a work-from-home option available for certain circumstances?  How about Flex Hours?  These ideas don’t have to be limited to just salary employees anymore and employees knowing they can ask when faced with family/personal circumstances goes a long way to showing yours is a company that cares.

  • Don’t leave family out!

When you start planning Company activities, such as Holiday Parties, include family members…and yes, children as well.  Employees generally spend more time at work than at home so it is important for family to feel that they matter as well.  That will help them be more understanding when your employee has to travel or work long hours.

  • Tap into the talents of your employees…do you know what they are?

How many of your employees are writers or aspiring photographers?  Let them share their talents with their co-workers!  Not only does it create a sense of pride but you also uncover a whole other skill set aside from their job that may help the company.

> Let your employees lead a “Learning Club”…be it before work, during the lunch break or after hours.

Employees have talents and interests outside their job – why not let them share it.  Have someone who is financially savvy at playing the stock market and you want to boost your 401k participation?  How about instead of having a seminar to explain to employees why to join you ask that employee to lead an Investment Club, where he/she has share tips and ideas with the employees.

> Set up an internal newsletter for employees-only.

Communication, even in the world of technology and “apps,” is still an area of struggle for most companies.  Enlist those aspiring writers and photographers to publish a monthly company newsletter that highlights events, recaps of projects, quotes from customers, pictures of completed projects/events, etc.  Lets employees see what is going on in the company aside from the people they interact with everyday and shows the company has pride in what their employees do.

> Create a TEDx type of event!

If you aren’t familiar with TEDx, it is an event that basically allows people to speak about a topic they are passionate about in the hopes of educating others.  So why not setup a monthly event at your company to allow your employees to do the same thing.

Did they attend a training session recently? Let them get up and talk about the experience: what they learned, how they are applying it now, what they hope to do next – it may generate additional interest from other employees.

Is there an outside organization or event they are a member of?  Let your employee share that with their colleagues.  Shows interests they have outside of work and, again, may get others to want to join or find their own outside interests.  These side projects are a great stress relief and sense of pride – which helps employees find balance and happiness in their own lives…so encourage it.

> Give Back and encourage Volunteering

Its not just the Millennials (as you may have read) that are interested in volunteering or giving back to their community!  Donating their time makes employees feel that they are helping make a difference.  Sponsor charity events – such as a fun 5K – and encourage employees to participate.  Give them paid time off to attend the events and acknowledge their participation on social media.  It supports “social responsibility” while also boosting morale…and giving your company some free, positive press.

  • Promote perks that boost mental and physical well-being.

To quote Legally Blonde: “Exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy!”

> Have an onsite work-out activity: could be a morning yoga class, fitness class or even organize a daily employee walk.

> Have “themed days” at work: pick a day a month or every Friday.  During football season, for example, have a Team Pride Day and let them where their team’s gear or colors.  Have a “Flashback Day” and tell employees to dress up from the 80s and play only 80s music that day.  Let them have a little fun at work!

> Create a Scavenger Hunt!  Want to get your employees out interacting with other departments?  Challenge them to take photographs of certain things in each department that you will hide and be the first to find them all.

> Bring back the “Bring Your _____ to Work” Days.  What ever happened to the “bring your child to work” days?  Its most appreciated during Winter and Spring breaks when its hard for parents to find someone to watch them when there aren’t activities or camps to join, as in the summer.

What about “bring your dog to work”?  Studies show that petting your dogs naturally brings down stress levels and invokes happiness – hence why dogs are used as therapy companions.  Let your employees show off their 4-legged kids!

> Host a company luncheon or BBQ.  Sometimes, a company just needs to shut down and relax as a whole, especially after a busy season.

 

Coming in Part 3…Best Practices for Employee Engagement

Jumping on the “Employee Engagement” Bandwagon: Part 1

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to lead a session at #HRU’s first Chicago conference focused on Employee Engagement.  (For upcoming dates in other U.S. cities, check them out here at: http://www.globalhru.com)

Employee Engagement is the latest “buzz” phrase in HR with so many companies now realizing that they have to step up and do something if they want to increase production and employee retention.  And while you can Google the phrase and find all kinds of articles about “best practices” and ideas for different programs to integrate, I have seen little – more like nothing – that addressed the “how”…that is, how does a company determine what Employee Engagement Program is best for their needs.

Once upon a time, employers could use money as a motivator…dangling the “raise carrot” to get employees to give more of their time and focus harder on giving 110%.  But, let’s face it: the market crash in 2008 changed everything.  Companies have tightened down on raises, some not giving them annually anymore, and hiring replacements at lower salaries.  The promise of a bonus or pay increase doesn’t hold much weight with today’s employees who can’t trust that if they do their part, the company will follow through.

So, now companies want to focus on Employee Engagement as a way to manage their employees, yet – no one stops and asks them why…why do they want to focus on it now and what do they hope to get out of it.  You ask anyone and you get the standard explanation: We want to engage our employees to be more involved in the company and enjoy their jobs.

Truth is: Many companies see “employee engagement programs” as a way to simply increase production and increase their profits.

Companies get hung up on the generational differences and jump to conclusions about their own employees based on it: Older employees are set in their routines, not looking for career growth and generally not as technologically savvy.  Younger employees are part of this “give me” generation that don’t want to put in the time and work to move up the ladder and earn the salary they feel they deserve.  Sound familiar?  It should since most articles you read today talk directly to that – but isn’t necessarily true.  During the conference, we talked about that age group that is embracing all this new technology the fastest is actually the 50 and over crowd!

Bottom line: The market crash changed the attitudes and outlook for all employees.  Money isn’t the #1 motivator anymore now.  Focus on family and giving-back have taken center stage in many people’s lives.  Loyalty and longevity at a company are almost non-existent these days not because of topping out salary-wise but because of limited personal growth…employees want to continually be learning and growing in their positions to feel personal satisfaction.  Employees focus on the lack on money when they feel they are lacking in all other areas on their professional life.

So….how do you discover an Employee Engagement Program that will work for your company?  Start with gathering feedback from your employees to see what they want and what will really motivate them!  Don’t assume you know what they want.  And don’t just start incorporating all these ideas you read in articles thinking they will be work or even be welcomed.

For example: Don’t think you are adding to the well-being of your employees by adding a Smoking Cessation program and then manipulating them to join it to quit smoking.  Employees resent being forced into anything, especially if it doesn’t relate to their job.  Doing something like this will actually backfire on you in the end!

Depending on the size of your company, how you go about polling your employees may present a challenge – but I encourage you to find a way to do it personally.  Sending out a survey, even with multiple-choice answers, usually yields a response rate of only about 10%.  Having big company meetings may discourage people from talking as they don’t want to be the first one to offer ideas or look stupid in front of their colleagues.  If you have break things down into “team meetings” by group or department and facilitate discussions to ask for ideas, throw out ideas you have and ask for feedback or even look for volunteers to spearhead some initiatives.

Remember: This is all about engaging your employees – which starts with finding out what they would like and making plans around it.

Coming in Part 2…Let’s Talk Actionable Ideas