Monday, October 21, 2013

Disengaged Employees? Do Something About It

Disengaged Employees? Do Something About It

by Susan David
(Published on 7/15/13 on HBR Blog)

New data on employee engagement is in, and it’s downright discouraging. As this post by HBR’s Gretchen Gavett noted, Gallup’s research shows that engagement among US workers is holding steady at a scant 30%. This means seven out of ten people are either “checked out”, or actively hostile toward their employers. Seven out of ten.

Study after study shows that employee engagement, an index of bringing one’s best and full self to work, is not just an organizational nicety. It is a business imperative, linked to a number of performance outcomes, including profitability, customer satisfaction and turnover. A 2012 report on human capital from McKinsey added to the evidence, noting that organizations with top scores in employee motivation are about 60% more likely to be in the top quartile for overall business health. Companies I work with in my consulting practice who have done their own internal research have found similar linkages.

Of course, engagement is an emotional and deeply personal experience; it’s not simple or straightforward to address. But leaders must do so, for the sake of not only their employees but also their companies. Here are pointers to help you to make real inroads in this area:

Understand the basics of positive psychology and engagement research. At the end of her post, Gavett refers to an HBR classic on employee motivation, in which the famed management psychologist Frederick Herzberg argued that workers respond positively to more responsibility and authority in their daily tasks. This finding is resonant with self-determination theory, a well-established research program in psychology that has identified the universal human need for autonomy. In other words, people generally do well when they are empowered to make choices and decisions for themselves. Plenty more research has been done on work engagement, showing that factors such as social support and feedback can drive positive experience. Managers and HR professionals need to understand these and other robust psychological theories to more effectively shape their engagement efforts. A wealth of information is out there, ready to be put to good use.

Find out what engages your employees, not someone else’s. While broad research is a valuable resource, it can only take an organization so far. No theory or model is useful in the abstract. What matters is your business and your people. Ironically, most organizations use engagement results punitively; they focus on what is going wrong, and on why people aren’t as engaged as they could be. A better approach is to figure out what’s already working in your business, and find ways to replicate it. Go to the most engaged individuals, teams and business units, and help others model what they do. I’ve used this approach to help businesses identify a unique “engagement signature” suited to their culture and context.

Encourage grassroots engagement. Engagement cannot be mandated, but it can be ignited. Once you understand what matters to your employees, you can support its expression and replication far and wide. Empower your people, particularly the most engaged employees, to share stories, exchange ideas and disseminate best practices across the business. A well-designed piece of media, such as a video “starring” members of a thriving business unit, can gain traction and become a source of encouragement for others. With the rise of social media and digital workplace technologies, it’s easier than ever to connect employees and make engagement contagious.

Recognize engagement as a moving target, and check back often. While certain elements of employee engagement will surely hold over time, it’s not something that can be assessed and addressed just once. Research shows that engagement fluctuates daily, and with changing circumstances. What engages people during a surge in business may be very different from what helps them bring their best selves to work in a recession. To keep your organization engaged, you must remain engaged, curious, and connected yourself.
The next time Gallup or McKinsey do their polls, I’d like to see those engagement scores rise. What would it take to engage half, three quarters or 100% of the workforce? Imagine what it would mean to business success, employee happiness and productivity.

What are you doing about employee engagement, and what can you share with others? Let’s begin the conversation today.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

9 Best Practices for Creating Powerful Mentoring Programs

9 Best Practices for Creating Powerful Mentoring Programs  
by Ann Tardy, President
The LifeMoxie Consulting Group

Implementing a corporate mentoring program can be your wildly successful legacy or your administrative nightmare. The difference lies in creating a powerful, employee driven, effective program.

As an employee benefit, a powerful mentoring program can serve to develop your current team and attract new talent. A mentoring program is the perfect opportunity to leverage the skills and strengths of your employees in order to train and develop each other. And when designed properly, a mentoring program can enhance leadership skills, soften departmental barriers, increase employee effectiveness, and boost morale.
Alternatively, a poorly planned mentoring program can become an administrative nightmare. The burden of designing, implementing and maintaining a mentoring program often falls on the already-full plate of an HR director or diversity manager. And an ineffective mentoring program runs the risk of frustrating the employees (and you!) and negatively impacting morale.

The following are nine best practices for creating a powerful, employee-driven, effective mentoring program:
1)      Define Your Success - As early as possible define your program’s success factors in measurable ways and then design your program to achieve that success. For example, one of LifeMoxie’s clients created a mentoring program to increase membership in its company-sponsored affinity groups. Another LifeMoxie client is using the program to augment its succession planning initiative and develop its mid-tier managers.  
2)      Give them a Reason to Participate - time is precious, especially on the job. If you want your employees to participate in your mentoring program, give them an incentive to participate or obligate them to identify their own reasons for participating. For example, encourage participation in the program by making it a factor in annual performance reviews.
3)      Blow up Mentoring Myths - Mentoring often connotes “a guide for your whole life,” similar to the character Obi-Wan Kenobi from the movie Star Wars. As a result, employees often expect to find that one special lifetime mentor in someone of the highest ranks of the company. In reality, everyone on your team can be a Mentor and everyone, regardless of level, can benefit from a mentoring program. Encourage employees to participate as both a Mentor and a Mentee in your program so they learn from as well as develop each other.
4)      Think like a Dating Service - As the catalyst of your mentoring program, consider yourself a dating service for the professional development of your employees. As such you need to provide a way for people to find each other (think while providing them the structure in which to make good matches (think matchmaker). Teaching people how to participate in their own matching will create more effective mentoring relationships while giving them lifetime mentoring skills, but will also require your employees to be proactive in the finding and creating of their mentoring relationships. Your challenge is to implement a program that acts like a dating service and not like an arranged marriage.
5)      Teach them How to Mentor - To create an effective mentoring program, you must teach the participants how to be effective Mentors and Mentees. Incorporate ongoing Mentor/Mentee training and educational opportunities, and provide your participants with tools for creating structure in their relationships. Your goal is to teach them how to create their own mentoring relationships so that your mentoring program becomes an employee-inspired, employee generated, employee-driven program year after year.
6)      Make them Commit - Make it a requirement that everyone who enters into a mentoring relationship must sign a mentoring agreement or complete an application (either on-line or on paper). In addition, require your participants to commit to the relationship for a certain period of time, preferably three to six months, while providing each party the opportunity to obtain a no fault split should the relationship not be working.
7)      Mentor around Specific Goals - As your participants start creating mentoring relationships, encourage them to work on specific goals that the Mentor and Mentee generate together. Having goals will create focus and contribute to the effectiveness of their relationship.
8)      Make it Easy to Play - There is nothing worse than an interested, inspired employee that becomes frustrated with the process. Make it easy to participate in your mentoring program, easy to access the mentoring tools and information, and easy for you to administer.
9)      Track Everyone’s Progress - Encourage your participants to track their progress in the program and their progress on their goals. Incorporate a mechanism for participants to provide their feedback on their relationship and on the mentoring program.