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. 

 

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.

Engagement Isn’t Rocket Science Folks!

There’s a lot of talk in the market about “Employee Engagement” and all these tactics and tools an organization can use to improve in this area, but the fact is – engaging your employees is much easier to do than you think and doesn’t cost a penny.

The problem many companies – and even volunteer groups – are facing is that employees have lost that “drive” that they once had when they first joined.  Regardless of whether they have been a long-term or even short-term employee, that “spark” they had has dimmed: the excitement of being part of a new organization, the nervousness yet eagerness to learn all they can about their new company and position, the desire to feel like part of the team and that old “giving 110%.”

For a while there, the HR community called this “retention”…how do we keep our employees from leaving?  But the word itself – if you really think about it – is restricting.  To “retain” something (or someone) is to hold on to them, usually using boundaries or by force.  Not exactly what we want to do with our employees!  Last thing we want them to feel is back into a corner and complying with what we try to do just to make us stop and go away.

The shift to talking “engagement” instead is because, in reality, the only people we want to try and keep within our organizations are the ones that want to be there.  Remember that phrase “you can lead a horse to water but can’t make it drink it?”  Well, that’s what many organizations have been trying to do…just nicely.

Think about your own job.  Are you still as enthusiastic about getting up and going to work in the morning as you were when you first started?  Do you feel a sense of personal success or satisfaction when you leave at the end of the day or are you just happy to go home?  Do you start to compare yourself to others more and more in how the company treats or rewards them?  Is this the job you see yourself content to spend the next several years with until you are ready to retire?  It’s a reality check – isn’t it.

Bottom line:  Dis-engagement stems most of all from a breakdown in two-way communication. Employees loose the desire to engage in their job because: 1) things become too routine with companies only rewarding for work results, and 2) they don’t feel appreciated or they feel taken advantage of.

To truly get your employees re-engaged, they need to self-motivate themselves…but there are simply things that Managers and HR professional can do to set the ball rolling on this:

  • Observe and note: Take a walk around and just watch the employees while they are working. What mood do you pick up from them? How are they engaging with others? Are they always looking down and annoyed or do they look up and smile from time to time?  Does one complain louder than the others or seem to get the others riled up as well?  Just take in your observations about what the work environment looks like to someone from the “outside” and make notes of what you observed.
  • Have an informal conversation: Don’t schedule a meeting but rather take the time to walk up to each employee, regardless of their position in the company, and have a chat. Tell them that you are just wondering how they are doing.  It starts right there – you want to make it casual so that their guard comes down and they talk openly.  Then start asking them about what they like or don’t like and what changes they may want to suggest.  Tell them you are trying to get a feel for where the company is right now and where the employees would like to see things go so that you can review with management about adding some programs or making some changes.
  • Have a meeting with management: Now its time to get serious and get down to business. Employee morale does more than just affect tenure of an employee, it affects how they interact with customers.  A disgruntled employee will already be annoyed with a complaining customer and maybe not go that extra step to make them happy because, well…they aren’t happy.  Explain your observations as you walked around, comments you received and suggestions you have to introduce some positive changes to the workplace.  The biggest resistance management usually has it to anything that will “cost money” but not all changes have a price tag attached to it and most, if not all, can actually decrease overall cost as time goes on and these changes become the norm.  Want a sure-fire way to get them to listen?  Talk about the dollar amount associated with recruiting a new employee, labor lost in the meantime, cost to onboard and train that new employee and the potential of having to do it all again if the pattern continues…that usually gets them to at least stop and listen.
  • Follow-up with the whole company: If you really want employees to open up and share the good and the bad, they have to know that what they say – regardless of what it is – will not fall on deaf eyes “as it has in the past.” Hold a company meeting.  Let them know some of the observations that were made and the changes that management would like to make based on that feedback to help improve everyone’s job.  This is where you have to build trust and it all has to start somewhere.  The next time you repeat this process – and I would do it at least twice a year – you will find employees more open to talking when you come around.

Changes won’t happen overnight, we all know this, but don’t wait until you have developed the “perfect” Employee Engagement plan to start working on it.  Those disengaged employees won’t stick around for long and many are already looking for their exit strategy.

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

Are All “Employees” Really Created Equal?

equalI recently had a discussion with a manager as to whether or not the Temporary Staffing employees we use during our busy seasons should be entitled to the same benefits as our long-term employees…and I was shocked at our opposing points of view on the matter.

First, what are “Temps? 

Wikipedia defines it as:  Temporary work or temporary employment refers to a situation where the employee is expected to leave the employer within a certain period of time. Temporary employees are sometimes called “contractual”, “seasonal”, “interim”, “casual staff”, “freelance”; or the word may be shortened to “temps”.   Temporary workers may work full-time or part-time, depending on the individual case.

Why employ Temps?

Companies will employ Temps from time to time to help with an increase in workload.  Some will bring them on board to help for only a short period (6-8 weeks seems to be common) and others may keep them on even longer (I’ve seen some Temps employed by a client for as long as a 12-18 months non-stop).

In most cases, companies will utilize Temporary Staffing Agencies to manage the process as a cost-effective solution to fluctuating staffing needs.   Typically, temporary workers earn roughly a third of a permanent counterpart and receive few or no health benefits.

These agencies test and interview their “employees” and then categorize them into a database.  When a company needs a Temp, they simply give the agency the criteria they want the person to fit and then they are sent those that qualify to work assignments.

In some cases, the company only needs the Temp to fill in for a few hours or a few days a week.  While the agency will assign a “minimum” number of hours to pay the Temp for the day called in, the company doesn’t have to work them a full day or a 40 hour week as they would with an Employee.

Using Temp employees is also the company’s way to “test drive” the candidate to see if they have the skill set or work ethic to fit into the company full time.  If a Temp isn’t working out, the company can have them replaced or let go without worrying about paying unemployment.

So, should companies treat Temps equally to Employees?

This is where our difference of opinion occurred.

We had a situation where work was available after hours for a bonus…and instead of offering it to one of the company’s employees, the manager offered it to a Temp instead.  When I questioned this manager on why he chose to use a Temp for a project that we had employees available to take that would have welcomed the additional bonus, he argued that Temps are no different than employees.

The argument he presented was that Temps are no different than Substitute teachers: that we, as students, were taught and expected that we shouldn’t treat them any differently than our regular teachers.  To a point, he is correct.  Temp employees are guaranteed the same protections as regular employees when it comes to harassment and discrimination.  But, where I didn’t agree was with favoring a Temp over an employee when it came to benefits.

Many companies are still struggling to get their benefit and compensation programs back to pre-2008 operations.  Cuts and changes had to be made after the market crash to simply keep many companies running…and this included refraining from awarding raises and bonuses…and employee morale was a side effect of those changes.  So, imagine my surprise when a member of management saw nothing wrong with keeping a long-standing added benefit from the employees and giving it to a Temp instead.  Not only are the employees being denied a potential monetary benefit, but now is the added perceived “threat” that the Temps will be replacing them – further driving employee morale down.

When employee morale starts to decline, it is natural that employees will turn their whole focus to money.  They will begin to feel that the company doesn’t appreciate them so why give 110% anymore.  When raises, perks or other benefits are taken away from them, they begin to perform at just the minimum to perform their job since that’s all they feel they are being compensated for anyway.

When a company starts to show favor to the Temps they have hired, even for a short period of time, you have now started down a very slippery slope that will be that much harder to turn around and come back from.  Temporary employees are a benefit to the company to meet production needs, but…a company needs to remember not to turn their focus away from their long-term, loyal employees if they want them to continue to work for them.

So should Temporary employees be treated equally to a company’s Employees in all aspects?
My opinion – If you really feel that a temporary employee should receive the same (or more) benefits as your regular employees, then maybe you should consider them for employment with your company.  Otherwise, recognize that your loyalty should be to those employees with you year-round not on a situational basis.

What are your thoughts?

Do Not Use Overtime as a “Performance” Award!

thumbsWhether you are a seasoned or new manager – repeat after me:

 “Overtime is not an award for performance.”

Reality: “Overtime” is that necessary evil businesses have to face when a critical job simply needs to get done and it can’t be done within a normal allotted period of time.  Yes – employees like overtime because it means more money in their pockets…and companies hate it because it cuts into their bottom line profits.

So do not get into the habit of viewing overtime as that “extra something” you can provide an employee for doing a great job.

Its sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?…yet, I recently came across a manager who told me just that – he wants to use overtime to reward certain employees.  As he went on to explain, the red flags started popping up like crazy!

When you view overtime as additional compensation you can “provide” to an employee, here are some of the potholes you will encounter:

1)      You will begin to view those employees that can’t work overtime as “non-committed” and even lazy.  It’s a quick judgment call managers tend to make without taking into account the reasons why some employees simply can’t work more than those 40hrs a week you originally hired them for.  This manager actually told me he saw no problem with cutting back on the hours of the employees that wouldn’t volunteer in order to give more overtime to those that would!

2)      You will tend to play “favorite” with certain employees who are always volunteering to work overtime.  This doesn’t give others the chance to earn some overtime or show you how they can be a dedicated employee.  Think about it – its typically a factor brought up during an employee’s performance review.  They become resentful when you point out how they never went “above and beyond” the job…yet, you may be to blame – not them.

3)      Interactions between the employees you “award” overtime and those you do not will become increasingly tense and volatile.  But here we go again – you as the manager will blame the employee for their reaction to the environment that you created.

4)      Overall employee job satisfaction will begin to diminish and you will find them simply doing the bare minimum that is needed to get their job done and not be fired.  Forget trying to get 110% out of them…why should they?  They aren’t being “rewarded.”

Money is one of the biggest driving factors in employee performance and job satisfaction…and nowadays, all employees want to make more money.  But, be smart about how you go about coming up with “creative” ways to make that happen.

A reward for one should never be balanced out with a punishment for another.

Employee Reviews Are Useless??

review“They aren’t important…it’s all about the money anyway.”

As much as I hate to admit this – yes, there are managers out there who believe this to be true!  After hearing these words come out a manager’s mouth when I asked when he was going to get the performance reviews for his department completed, I decided to sit down all the managers at my company to explain to them what performance reviews are and why they are important.

While many employees have come to expect a raise to be rewarded at the time of their performance review, managers need to realize that this isn’t the purpose behind them.  Performance Management is a more than just a “review” – its best when used as a check-and-balance method of communication.  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.

The worst mistake a company can make is to avoid giving a performance review because they expect the employee to be looking for a raise.  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.  Few goals take an entire year to complete so why wait so long to discuss them?  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?

Actually, if you conduct these performance review sessions more often throughout the year (my suggestion is to conduct them quarterly), they will take less time to complete as you will be updating and modifying the goals and expectations you have of your employees as you go along…tweeking it if you will.  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.

Tie goals to a performance matrix so they know what they have to do before they can earn a raise and at what level.  Think back to school – you knew what score you had to get in order to receive an A versus a B…put the same concept in place in the workplace.  For revenue-generating positions, this can be tied to profit but even non-revenue positions can have “levels” of success for the employees to strive for.  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.

And remember than performance management doesn’t have to be limited to a one-on-one discussion with the employee.  Turn it into a true recognition program!  Have your goal setting session with the employee and once they achieve them, make an announcement to the entire company.  Not only will the employee enjoy the attention paid to their accomplishment, but it will (hopefully) motivate other employees to want to do the same.

In the end, communcation will increase throughout all levels at the company which will in turn boost employee morale and increase performance levels…all of which will lead to an increase in company profit.  Now – doesn’t it seem worth the time to have these “pow wow” sessions with your employees?  And if you feel compelled to award a raise as a result – I would say go with that feeling!