TYPICAL LIFE CYCLE OF EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT

1.    OVER-WHELMED

  • Start of a new job through hire or promotion,
  • Some apprehension about having to learn new job content,
  • A new corporate culture and/or new processes and procedures, and
  • Build new work relationships

       If we’ve made a good hire or promotion (the appropriate foundation knowledge and talents, temperament and drive) that feeling of being Overwhelmed,  Apprehensive, turns into taking control and responsibility and triggers us to action toward being successful.  Employee feels growing confidence and empowerment.

Very quickly leads to ……….  A Highly Engaged Employee

 2.   HAPPILY ENGAGED & PRODUCTIVE

After 6 months or so, employee is continuing to be challenged but enjoying the experience, continuing to learn and also contributing. 

3.   SMOOTH SAILING

 After 1 yr. to 18 mos., employee is confident handling the job, still enjoying the work  Not much learning or challenge going on.

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Stages two and three can be prolonged by creating diverse roles or jobs and with special project assignments.   These will provide additional opportunities for learning and development while allowing the employee to make important contributions to the department and company

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 4.  BORED

May take 3 – 7 yrs., How long it will take to reach this stage depends on the diversity of job responsibilities and other opportunities and to some extent on the employee’s temperament.  Some jobs are more diverse than others by nature and consistently provide new challenges.   When an employee reaches this stage, they can, figuratively, do the job while sleeping.

 Employee needs new challenges, perhaps additional responsibilities.

5.   INDIFFERENT

Left unchallenged the employee becomes unhappy with himself & the company.  Won’t care enough to do the work well.   An increase in absences may be noted, arriving late and leaving early, a change in interest in the work demonstrated by a decline in participation at meetings failure to follow thru and meet deadlines.

BUT  With new challenges, the cycle can revert to Stages 2 and 3.

FIND OUT WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW & BUILD A CULTURE THAT YIELDS ENGAGEMENT & RETENTION, A SUCCESS STRATEGY

PART 1 – FIND OUT WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW

PART II – “TRUST”  The underlying support for sustained high levels of employee engagement and retention.

The first half of this Post will re-cap the topics in previous posts and suggests a means of “Finding Out What You Don’t Know” about the state of employee engagement at your organization.

In the second half of this Post, I will look at “Trust” since it is the essential underlying factor in an organization’s culture that promotes the development of high levels of employee engagement and retention.   Included are some insights into what we do right to reinforce trust, what we do wrong to destroy it, the impact on the organization, and help with a path to improvement.

A RE-CAP…………………….

The subjects presented in previous posts on “EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT”

(please go to these posts for full details)

  • EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT  must be a management priority

Fact 1 – Multiple studies point to a significant relationship between employee engagement and the financial performance of a company.

  • THE LEVEL OF COMMITMENT YOU OBSERVE IS A KEY FACTOR IN DETERMINING THE QUALITY OF EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT.

Commitment reveals itself in the investment of time and energy (emotional, mental and sometimes physical) that an employee gives to the company.

Pro-active work behaviors – self initiated “extra” contributions,

  •  THE BUILDING BLOCKS FOR HIGH LEVELS OF EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT AND ENTHUSIASM

The operational, cultural characteristics that promote employee engagement, also promote success ——-Even if you’ve never heard the term engagement.

  •  MANAGEMENT PRACTICES THAT KILL ENGAGEMENT

These practices are nothing less than management deficiencies that are not consistent with successful business operations.

TRUST  =  COMMITMENT  =  RETENTION  =  ENGAGEMENT (Pro Active work behaviors, Creativity, Innovation)  =  IMPROVED PRODUCTIVITY  =   A SUCCESS STRATEGY

Hopefully, all of this will provide direction where it is already accepted that cultural and operational change is needed, and encouragement to others to take the hard look at their organizations.    Are fixable cultural and operational factors driving declining quality and productivity and creating high turnover?

FIND OUT WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW

I have had very good results in implementing change initiatives using the information in this and previous posts both in development efforts with individual managers and in corporate culture change initiatives.

I encourage the use of an Employee Perception Surveys (EPS), done every other year with results communicated to all.   This is not the same as an Employee Satisfaction Survey.   An EPS is the best way to gather information and gain wide support for improvement strategies to “fix” the areas that are sub-optimal and score poorly.

From a previous post, these are some of the areas where an EPS would provide insights into the efficiency of operations and the effectiveness of management practices.

            • Perceptions of their jobs and the work
            • Work environment
            • Attitudes toward quality and quality efforts
            • Commitment to the customer and customer relationships
            • Management support
            • Career advancement/opportunities
            • Opportunities for training and development
            • Ability to improve work/Feedback
            • Level  of overall understanding of the organization’s goals/priorities

Follow-up initiatives to dig deeper are the appropriate first steps following analysis of survey results, let’s call them fact-finding initiatives.  They should involve people at all levels and from all functions.  This group will help refine the specific areas for improvement and the best method to achieve results. I am always amazed at how much dysfunction and inefficiency people will work with.  They become used to things being done a certain way or don’t have the time or the support to create improvement (this is an engagement killer).    These fact-finding initiatives seem to provide that time, and with the crafting of improvement strategies, these efforts are themselves engagement builders – they directly link employee efforts with outcomes that produce value for the organization.

I have used the Employee Perceptions Survey to alert management that issues existed that were holding the company back and then used the follow-up initiatives to identify specifics and create and implement improvement strategies, For Example:  Identifying operational deficiencies, mis-communications, lack of communications and cooperation between department resulting in late product releases, production issues and errors, poor handling of customer account issues and on and on.

In my experience, I have found that it is key to assign accountability and responsibility for specific outcomes.    Milestones should be identified  and put into time lines with progress updates provided by those responsible.   If and when appropriate, specific accountabilities for implementing approved changes in procedures or processes should be pushed down through the organization’s workforce by departmental management.

Most of the information that has been presented in the posts to date have also been part of management training and awareness programs that followed EPS and the follow-up initiatives.  Because these programs were based on the organization’s realities rather than generic issues, the program’s content always hit home with managers and seemed to provide almost a welcome relief, a clear direction forward with achievable change objectives that could be implemented to improve everything from the way employees are hired, trained, and managed, to objectives setting to communications with employees about performance.

Smaller organizations have a definite advantage over large companies in successfully implementing change.  They enjoy limited to no bureaucracy that can completely impede the process, delay implementation, or slow down the pace of a change initiative.   A change process that moves slowly drifts into inertia and will not survive to completion.

If an organization has engagement and retention issues, the time is now to push for change.  Once the economy turns the corner to sustained improvement, turnover and productivity issues will grow from concerns to critical issues that impede the ability to compete successfully.   I would suggest management consider these factors to determine risk.

    • Are your training and onboarding programs effective or just activities that can be “checked off” as done?
    • Are you dealing with too many errors, quality issues, declining productivity, and high absenteeism?
    • Has high turnover in general or turnover in critical areas been an issue in the past – before the economic downturn?
    • Do you have difficulty filling jobs requiring specialized or high level skills?
    • Do you suspect low engagement but you have not been seeing high turnover in the last 2 – 3 years during this recession.

 

TRUST

Whether we choose to trust a product or a service and the organizations that provide these or trust in a relationship, personal or professional, …………

 TRUST IS THE BASIS FOR COMMITMENT.

In the employer/employee relationship, this commitment translates into pro-active work behaviors that benefit the organization and all its stakeholders, which includes employees themselves, customers, and other stakeholders.

We label these pro-active work behaviors as indicating “Employee Engagement”

High turnover is a negative outcome in organizations where trust and ethical behavior are seen as lacking or on the decline.   There is no positive correlation between high turnover and high employee engagement and productivity.

Here are results of two surveys, with slightly different goals and focuses that look at the impact of trust in organizations.

The first survey focuses on the behaviors that impact the development or destruction of trust amongst and between various interacting groups.    The second survey looks at the effects of declining levels of trust on turnover and specific employee behaviors at work.

A Survey of Trust in the Workplace by Paul Bernthal, Ph.D  was done in the mid 1990s.   This survey examined trust levels amongst 4 groups, peers, leaders, other teams, and senior Management in 57 organizations.   The full survey details may be accessed using this link  Survey of Trust in the Workplace, Dr. Paul Bernthal

Just about half of respondents expressed the belief that trust was an issue in their organizations.

The results also indicated that demographics such as position in the organization, tenure, even industry and company size did not affect ratings significantly or consistently.

Some of Dr. Bernthal’s findings are as follows:

    • Trust in senior management tended to be the lowest vs. trust of other leaders, peers and other teams.
    • The level of trust in senior management stood as a predictor of the general perception of trust in the organization as a whole.
    • Those who were seen as trusted leaders were seen as demonstrating behaviors such as consistency, dependability/reliability, support during risk taking, and keeping direct reports’ best interests in mind.
    •  “Trust Building” and “Trust Reducing” behaviors were identified however, *there was more universal agreement on “Trust Building” behaviors.

THE TOP 5 BEHAVIORS THAT BUILD “TRUST *  It is interesting to note the differences in ratings depending on who is doing the rating and who they were rating amongst Leaders, Peers, or Direct Reports 

  1. Communicates with me openly & honestly, without distorting any information. Consistency in words and actions – # 1 trust builder (Most important from leaders)
  2. Shows confidence in my abilities by treating me as skilled, competent associate. (Most important from leaders)
  3. Keeps promises and commitments (Most important from direct reports)
  4. Listens to & values what I say, even though he/she may not agree. (Most important from peers)
  5. Cooperates with me and looks for way in which we can help each other. (Most important from direct reports, peers)

THE TOP 5 BEHAVIORS THAT  REDUCE “TRUST”  again there are differences in ratings depending on who is doing the rating and who they were rating amongst Leaders, Peers, or Direct Reports.

 There was not as much agreement on the behaviors that reduce trust.

  1. Acts more concerned about his/her own welfare than anything else. (Most damaging in leaders)
  2. Sends mixed messages, I never know where he or she stands. (Most damaging in leaders)
  3. Avoids taking responsibility for action (“passes the buck” or “drops the ball”) (Most damaging in direct reports)
  4. Jumps to conclusions without checking the facts.
  5. Makes excuses or blames others when things don’t work (finger-pointing,) (Most damaging in direct reports)

In 2010 Deloitte conducted a survey titled “Ethics and Workplace Survey: Trust in the Workplace.”   Previous versions of this survey had focused on Work-Life Fit, Ethical Behavior and the impact of leadership transparency on productivity.  This survey focused on the impact of Trust in the workplace in addition to areas reviewed in previous surveys which also impact trust.    The full survey can be found by clicking on this link  2010 Ethics and Workplace Survey: Trust in the Workplace.

A summary of the salient points relative to employee trust in their employer:

  • The survey found that the recession that began in 2007-2008 has diminished “two important forms of business currency—trust and ethics.
  • 48% of employees who plan to look for a new job when the economy shows signs of stability will do so because of loss of trust in their employer.   This loss of trust is directly related to how business and operational decisions were handled over the last two years, E.g. lack of transparent leadership communication.
  • Executives seem to concur and believe that trust (65%) and transparency (48%) will be leading factors in voluntary turnover as the economy recovers.
  • Fairness is another factor that will drive turnover.  40% employees feel that they have been treated unfairly and that they have been victims of unethical behavior.
  • 39% of Executives also believe this is true.

I don’t think it would be a stretch to assume that these folks with one foot out the door are not exhibiting high levels of commitment or engagement in their current roles and productivity and creativity are suffering.

The responses to this question in the Deloitte survey clearly shows that trust between employer and employee is valued regardless of role in the organization and is acknowledged as having a positive impact in several critical areas.

Responses were separated for Employees and Executives

Of the following items, which do you believe are the most positively affected when an employee trusts his or her employer?  

Morale

55%   Employees                              46%    Executives

Teambuilding and collaboration

39%   Employees                              29%   Executives

Productivity and Profitability

36%   Employees                              66%   Executives

Ethical decisions

35%   Employees                              16%   Executives

Willingness to stay with the company

32%   Employees                              43%   Executives

MANAGEMENT PRACTICES CAN KILL ENGAGEMENT

TRUST is basic component of cultures where employee engagement exists at a high level.   More on Trust next time.

The following practices, which are essentially management deficiencies, are the other factors that are noted as playing a significant role in the level of employee engagement.  In companies or departments within company where engagement is low you will find some or all of these deficiencies.

A POOR SELECTION PROCESS

Placing the wrong people in the wrong jobs; It takes more than direct experience and the right degree to be the right person for a job.  It takes enthusiasm and interest in the work.  Train interviewers to identify interest and enthusiasm.  If interest and enthusiasm are there, even the most reserved candidate will display these for the job you are attempting to fill as you describe it to them or when they describe their past accomplishments in a similar position.

POORLY PLANNED TRAINING

As to both content and time frame for completion, and the lack of an on-boarding program will leave employees feeling frustrated and unattached to the job and the company. (On-boarding is not orientation)

NARROWLY STRUCTURED JOBS

With little opportunity for learning and growth a motivated employee is transformed into a bored employee.

EMPLOYEES WHO DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THEIR EFFORTS AND  THE COMPANY & DEPARTMENT’S OBJECTIVES

They feel their jobs are meaningless. A better model for Performance Management is needed: One that illustrates alignment of employee efforts with departmental and organizational goals.

EMPLOYEES WHO ARE CAPABLE, EXPERIENCED AND EDUCATED ARE NOT GIVEN THE APPROPRIATE AUTHORITY AND AUTONOMY TO DO THEIR JOBS.

Often it will be high turnover rates that start to attract attention followed by work quality issues and absenteeism.   However, in the economic conditions of the last few years, people have remained in their jobs out of the lack of options, so management deficiencies may go un-noticed while dis-engaged employees negatively impact productivity.  
Once the labor market improves, low engagement can become high turnover with the additional problem of difficulty in finding the replacement talent you need.

I strongly recommend Employee Perception Surveys done every other year to learn about how well you are doing in promoting employee engagement.    An Employment Perception Survey is like taking a temperature.   Low scores will tell you something is wrong, but you will need to dig deeper to pinpoint the extent of issues and potential solutions.

Also, remember, “perception is reality,” your survey responses will lead you to correct real issue and correct erroneous perceptions – both are a problem.

These are some of the areas where an EPS would provide information about the efficacy of management practices and whether or not they promote employee engagement.

  • Perception of jobs and the work
  • Work environment
  • Attitudes toward quality and quality efforts
  • Commitment to the customer and customer relationships
  • Management support
  • Career advancement/opportunities
  • Opportunities for training and development
  • Ability to improve work/Feedback
  • Overall understanding of the organization’s goals/priorities

THE BUILDING BLOCKS FOR HIGH LEVELS OF EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT AND ENTHUSIASM

THE OPERATIONAL, CULTURAL CHARACTERISTICS THAT PROMOTE EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT, ALSO PROMOTE SUCCESS —
EVEN IF YOU’VE NEVER HEARD THE TERM ENGAGEMENT

THE GOAL: Commitment resulting in pro-active work behaviors – self initiated “extra” contributions, willingness to take ownership of challenges that lie beyond immediate assigned tasks

 COMMITMENT ++ DEVELOP IN………

  •  Enriched work environments where job roles are broadly defined,
  • Jobs are meaningful, have autonomy, variety (with opportunities to learn new skills), and
  • Where co-worker trust is the norm.

CHARACTERISTICS OF HIGH ENGAGEMENT CULTURES

    INTERPERSONAL SUPPORT

Teamwork – a high degree of cooperation within work groups & an environment of trust & trustworthy actions that foster rapid & satisfying resolution of conflicts.

Collaboration – a high degree of cooperation between work groups that fosters common goals, rapid conflict resolution, & increased trust.

    FOCUSED WORK

Align Efforts with Strategy – A clear understanding of what is expected; timely information about changes that affect work.

    INDIVIDUAL VALUE

DevelopmentOpportunity & support to develop on the job.

Support & RecognitionOngoing feedback on performance & acceptance of individual differences of approaches, ideas & opinions.

The level of COMMITMENT you observe is a key factor in determining the quality of employee engagement.

Commitment reveals itself in the investment of time and energy (emotional, mental and sometimes physical) that an employee gives to the company.

Pro-active work behaviors – self initiated “extra” contributions, willingness to take ownership of challenges that lie beyond their immediate assigned tasks.

Employees who have made a “Commitment” to their company assume they will received something in return for the value they add: a secure job, fair compensation, attention and acknowledgements, rewards, and development.

So…… reciprocity affects the level of commitment and if the expected reciprocity fails to materialize, the commitment erodes.

Engagement sounds important, it is important…….

  • Fact 1 – Multiple studies point to a significant relationship between employee engagement and the financial performance of a company.

High levels of Engagement don’t happen by chance.  

  • Fact 2 – Management’s policies & approach impact the level of employee engagement.

What about the selection process?

  •  Can we “select” for high levels of Engagement?   Most definitely!