Posts Tagged ‘Engagement’

Dunder Mifflin, a great place to work! Anybody? Show of hands, anybody want to intern at Dunder Mifflin. We do not offer college credit, we can not give you any sort of pay, but it is a really fun work environment. Anybody? Show of hands? Dammit. Ok. I’m gonna wrap it up here. Thank you, for your time. And drive safe! – Michael Scott, The Office

Ok…maybe Dunder Mifflin isn’t a great example of a fun plactraderjoes_Logoe to work, but Trader Joe’s is. And fun in the workplace does matter.

Read: Monica Nolan on Fun: The Secret Ingredient in Employee Engagement for PeopleMetrics

Of course, it needs to be relevant and appropriate to the existing corporate culture and not negatively affect the organization or its reputation. And it certainly isn’t a substitute for other key motivators such as solid leadership and fair pay. But encouraging employees to have a good time on the job ultimately may lead to higher engagement and loyalty, which in turn means  lower turnover. The best part? A fun place to work is a fun place to shop.

To read more about Trader Joe’s and its unique approach to employee engagement, pick up The Trader Joe’s Adventure: Turning a Unique Approach to Business into a Retail and Cultural Phenomenon, a book by Len Lewis.


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Watson Wyatt apparently agrees with my point that employee engagement is not solely the responsibility of the HR department. In a recent study, the consulting firm showed that companies with effective internal communication programs are better positioned to keep employees engaged and retain key talent.

I won’t bore you with the statistics here, but I thought this is an interesting look at the role communications can and should play in employee engagement, particularly during such challenging times.

According to Kathryn Yates, global leader of communication consulting at Watson Wyatt:

As the economy continues to shift, keeping employees up-to-date on how the company is responding, and how they are affected, will help insure against their becoming demoralized and disconnected. Effective communication helps engage employees, and that has positive implications for productivity and the bottom line.

That being said, addressing employee engagement is ideally a joint effort among a number of internal departments. The stakes are simply too high, and the work too impactful, not to have buy-in across the organization.

ReadEffective Communication Can Drive Employee Engagement, Help Retain Top Performers, According to Watson Wyatt for CNNMoney (Press Release dated 11.09.09)

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Almost everything I’ve read or written about employee engagement to this point has referenced multiple surveys—and they all say pretty much the same thing. Most companies suffer from an engagement deficit, and it doesn’t take a genius to intuit that the current economic crisis is not helping matters.

But I find that the constant focus on the numbers actually detracts from the matter at hand. The statistics, after all, do not solve the engagement problem. They merely provide more information about an issue already known to exist at least to a certain degree.

Last night, I tested a number of surveys for a market research class I am taking. As the respondent, they seemed long and tedious. I spent more time than I care to admit trying to draw a meaningful distinction between a “4” and a “5” on the satisfaction scale.

But as the person who helped design the surveys, I understood why the questions were necessary. I knew why we were asking the questions and what we were trying to learn. Most importantly, I understood how we would use the results to inform our communications strategy.

Employee surveys are no different. They require substantial investments of time and money, and risk annoying the employees who are asked to take them. What is done with the results is critical and is the only justification for conducting the survey in the first place. So, I realized last night, it is absolutely crucial that companies take a strategic approach to conducting employee surveys.

I found a great article about this subject today, coincidentally. It focuses on a collaborative effort by Amway and Towers Perrin to incorporate business goals and strategy into the design and implementation of an employee survey. In doing so, the authors uncovered four guiding principles. In a nutshell, they are:

Integration: Questions should be designed to get at the heart of what matters most to the company. Results, therefore, become as valuable as key strategic and financial indicators.

Alignment: Surveys should be centralized (particularly across geographic regions) to ensure the focus remains on improving the culture of the organization as a whole. Consistency assures that results can be compared across regions later.

Discovery: Results should be presented in such a way that the organization’s leaders want to engage with the data and can collect insights that are relevant to key strategic initiatives.

Execution: Emphasis on organizational effectiveness, including survey roll-out and use of technology, is as important as design. Training at the local levels further supports a global leadership team and ensures uniformity and credibility across the board.

The results of this strategic approach were impressive. Not only did Amway achieve an extremely high response rate while reducing overhead, leaders were able to correlate employee feedback with business metrics. The ability to quantify corporate culture in terms of business performance was an extremely enviable outcome. Survey results also provided an opportunity to compare results across regions, thereby enabling leaders to leverage strengths across the organization and develop local solutions where necessary.

The article goes on to list seven also very useful steps for optimizing employee surveys (for strategic impact, of course).

Read: Jon Brickner and Joe Dettmann on Beyond Engagement: Using Surveys to Drive Strategy for Talent Management Magazine (11.09)

I’m not convinced that this process rests entirely with the HR function as the authors seem to suggest. Therefore, this article comes highly recommended from me, as an internal communicator.

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Are you engaged?

In a recent study of nearly 30,000 employees around the world, Right Management concluded that commitment to an employer’s core values is the top driver of employee engagement. If that’s the case, it would seem that companies who adopt and promote CSR within an organization are on the right track.

But beyond values, there are numerous reasons for employee engagement. Right Management identified five:

  1. I am committed to my organization’s core values
  2. Our customers think highly of our products and services
  3. My opinions count
  4. I have a clear understanding of what is expected of me at work
  5. I understand how I can contribute to meeting the needs of our customers

Read: Sharing an Employer’s Core Values is Leading Driver to Boost Employee Engagement (Press Release dated 10.30.09)

But in what is probably the most well-known indicator, Gallup outlined 12 key elements (known as the Gallup Q12, below) designed to measure just how engaged employees really are.

* Do you know what is expected of you at work?
* Do you have the materials and equipment you need to do your work right?
* At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
* In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
* Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?
* Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
* At work, do your opinions seem to count?
* Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?
* Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?
* Do you have a best friend at work?
* In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?
* In the last year, have you had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

But what does all this mean?

Exact definitions of employee engagement vary slightly, but the basic idea is that it is the willingness to exert discretionary effort to help a company reach its goals. Engaged employees care about their employer and want to do their best to help that employer succeed. And they are willing to go beyond immediate job key_employeeTypesrequirements to do so.

In fact, analysis has revealed that those with high Q12 scores exhibit lower turnover, higher sales, better productivity, better customer loyalty and superior job performance. It’s no wonder, then, that employee engagement has been closely linked to an organization’s higher shareholder value, solid business results, and positive corporate culture.

Unfortunately, engaged employees are hard to come by; by most estimates, they represent less than 30% of the workforce. I’m curious to know, are you engaged?

(Photo Credit: Gallup)

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In an article also written this week, and as a follow-up to her post I cited a couple days ago, Deborah Fleischer explored why and how employee engagement and CSR can and should be integrated to benefit an organization’s bottom line.

The theory is if you can get employees engaged and excited about being greener in their personal lives, they will bring this excitement and energy to their jobs as well.

To this end, AngelPoints and Saatchi & Saatchi S have launched a new software tool to help companies increase and subsequently measure Slide21-300x225sustainability engagement among employees.

The new online Personal Sustainability Project (PSP) tool charts individual and team progress in a number of “green” areas by focusing on (1) creating project goals and commitment; (2) tracking progress and impact; and (3) measuring end results.

Read: Deborah Fleischer on Employee Engagement: AngelPoints and Saatchi S Launch New PSP Tool for TriplePundit (10.27.09)

Thankfully, this article also addresses the important questions you may be asking, such as: Who cares? Why should a company be so concerned about whether its employees are actively engaged in sustainability initiatives?

Employee engagement is a key driver for increasing employee retention, attracting the best and brightest talent, fostering innovation and capturing cost savings from efficiency. However, to capture these benefits, there is growing pressure on companies to get their employees thinking about sustainability and incorporating it into their daily jobs.

This summary makes it sound relatively easy, but employee engagement is actually a very complex, and challenging, issue for internal communicators. In fact, I am currently enrolled in a semester-long course dedicated to the subject of internal engagement (and will be blogging about it quite a bit in the coming days).

Slide12-650x487But in the meantime, the AngelPoints PSP model (at left) shows that motivated employees can ultimately affect improved business performance and inspire a corporate culture of sustainability. In case you’re not convinced, this general progression is supported by research conducted by consulting powerhouses Watson Wyatt and Towers Perrin (among others).

I’m optimistic that an online PSP tool will encourage employees to connect with one another in support of their company’s CSR strategy. Given the adoption of online communications tools in other areas of organizations, this seems like a natural progression. A bonus? Accountability. Always a good thing.

(Photo Credits: AngelPoints)

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Last month, Newsweek published its inaugural “Green Rankings”—a list of the 500 most environmentally-responsible U.S.-based companies. Environmental data is admittedly hard to collect and compare across vastly green-recycle-imgdifferent industries (obviously the carbon footprint of an oil company will be greater than that of a consulting firm). But Newsweek did its best to acknowledge efforts to improve environmental policies, performance, and reputation by assigning each company an industry-adjusted “Green Score.”

I was expecting to see General Electric at the top of the list, mostly as a result of its Ecomagination campaign. Not surprisingly, GE’s reputation survey score came in at 2nd, behind only Walmart. But I was surprised and, if I’m being honest, a little pleased to see that GE was ranked only 82nd overall and a mere 261st for its green policies and performance. Apparently, and thankfully, Newsweek based a company’s total Green Score on more than expensive above-the-line marketing and Wizard-of-Oz-themed Superbowl ads. If external communications can’t secure a more enviable spot in the Green Rankings, what can?

Well, lots of things, obviously. Low carbon emissions, energy efficiency, and waste reduction, to name a few. But beyond that, how “green” can a company truly become if it doesn’t expend effort on its internal communications?

In mid-October, Ethical Corporation published a four-part series on social media and sustainability (you can get a free two-week subscription to read the full article text). The first part supported the argument for using social media to engage with stakeholders on sustainability issues. Based on the bottom-up origins of both movements, the integration of the two seems only natural.

The second article in the series dealt with the growth of social networking, the new tools that continue to evolve and expand, and the best way to harness social networking to promote corporate sustainability and responsibility.

The next section tackled the ongoing debate over who owns social media. Is it a PR function? Does it belong to marketing ? Or, in this case, maybe the corporate social responsibility (CSR) department, if there is one, should take over. The reality is that social media is present throughout an organization and every employee, regardless of job description, should be called upon to be active in the movement.

The fourth and final section is what got my attention with this underlying premise: when it comes to CSR, employee engagement is not a novelty, it is a necessity.

Most companies now recognize the business value and good karma that results from CSR, but the challenge remains to integrate it into corporate culture and make it a part of every employee’s experience. This happens to be the topic of my next post, so stay tuned!

(Photo credit: Wired.com)

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