Monthly Archives: March 2016

Keys to Employee Engagement: 12. Development

With this post, we’re reaching the end of our series on employee engagement.

 

As an older job-seeker, I frequently was asked how long I planned to continue working. While I think this was a way to side-step around asking me my age, I usually took it at face value.  My answer was that I’d continue to work as long I was learning something.

When I look back at my career, the companies where I stayed the longest were the ones where I was learning new things – and, coincidentally, where I felt I had the most fun.

engagement, development, growth, opportunityAt one company, it was learning how to compete effectively against a giant like Procter & Gamble. At Lawson Mardon, the corporate culture revolved around the study of management, leadership and strategy. When I worked for Plasmatreat, it was an introduction to nanotechnology and learning about a lot of leading-edge manufacturing processes in dynamic industries such as aerospace and medical devices.

Ironically, when Gallup analyzed the effects of the Q12 on four different dimensions – turnover, productivity, profitability and customer satisfaction – they found that giving employees the opportunity to grow and develop did not correlate with reduced turnover. Instead, they suggest growth opportunities are more strongly correlated with increased company profitability.

In our experience, while it’s true that employees switch companies to escape bad bosses or for higher salaries, it can just as easily be true that the employee has accomplished as much as they can hope to do with that employer and the only way to continue professional development is to move to another company.

One recruiter I know, who works in the CPG sector, moved people routinely from one kind of company to another: from Food to Personal Care products or Household Product; from large companies to smaller ones.  To some extent, the moves were induced to help the recruiter earn more fees; from the perspective of the employees, it gave them broader exposure – to different industries, competitors, channels – that would render them more highly marketable. The average tenure in CPG marketing was about 2 years – about the time it takes to go through one complete budget cycle and come away with demonstrable results.  I was placed by this recruiter multiple times and I can honestly say I benefitted from the exposure to different industries and corporate cultures.

What You Can Do

One thing you can consider doing is expanding the scope of each employee’s job so they experience new challenges.

Cross-training is one way of doing this, and it helps your organization by enabling employees to be more flexible and versatile so, when someone leaves the company or is on vacation, you have people already trained to fit into the vacant jobs.

This is easier to do in a larger company than a smaller one because there are simply more roles available to move someone into. That’s not to say it’s impossible to do in a smaller company.  In small companies, one way to create growth opportunities for employees is to promote them so they can take on more responsibility.

We tend to think of employee development in a managerial context, developing the proverbial mail-room clerk so he/she can become CEO. But not all employees are good at managing people and some simply don’t want to take on that kind of responsibility. For employees who have no desire to enter management ranks, consider developing a “professional” track whereby they can take on increasingly more challenging projects or become subject-matter experts without having any direct reports.  It’s a way to recognize their contribution to the company while allowing them to develop their professional skills. We had such a system in place at Esso, where you could find engineers who were experts on highly specialized topics such as fluid dynamics or catalysts.

Encourage your employees to acquire more knowledge. Have a program whereby the company provides some degree of financial support when an employee successfully completes a formal outside course.

Encourage your employees to achieve professional certification in their respective areas. This especially applies to employees on the professional career track.

 

Next week, we’ll wrap up the series with a summary.  We’ll be compiling all the posts in this series into a White Paper so you can have the entire series in a single document.

Keys to Employee Engagement: 11. Feedback

If you think, from the title of this post, that you’ve already got this topic covered off because you do annual performance appraisals, then think again.

If you’re only meeting with employees once a year to discuss their career progress, you’re not doing enough to truly engage your employees.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be doing annual performance reviews, but one problem with doing these once a year is that employees don’t have a lot of faith that the process is intended to help them in their careers and that the annual performance review is just “management’s” way of controlling salary increases.

An annual performance review is also very stressful for both employee and manager.  Employee’s hate to get them; Managers hate to do them.  Sounds like a process gone wrong.

The Gallup Q12 questionnaire has one question that addresses feedback: “In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about My progress?” Notice it’s not in the past year; it’s in the past 6 months.

feedback, engagement, employeeThe best managers I’ve ever worked for did things differently.

Sometimes, it might be as simple as a quick Post-It or note written on a document that said something like, “Great job!” or “You can do better than this”.  Note this isn’t used to only deliver positive feedback.

Something I used to do with my sales team was, when they landed a new account, I’d go see them, shake their hand and say something like, “Nicely done!” or “Way to go!”  Usually, I’d also ask them how they managed to win over the account and what they expected to see in sales revenue.

With either of these approaches, there’s no monetary reward or punishment, simply some recognition and honest feedback – and it’s done close to the time the action was taken by the employee.  I call it Management in the Moment.

The feedback doesn’t have to always be positive.  It’s OK to criticize, but do it constructively. You’ll be helping your employees correct behaviours or processes so they get things right sooner.  And you’ll see positive results in company performance.

Something else my best bosses did was periodically take me out to lunch.  Sometimes, it was to discuss a project I’d been working on or to talk about an issue at work. Other times, it might just be to have a friendly chat about how things are going.  What’s special about this approach is that it’s informal and done in a relaxing environment..  But it’s still Management in the Moment.

When I had a sales team, I promised I would take them out to lunch every month that they collectively exceed quota. The business portion of our lunch was simply saying, “Way to go, everyone. Thanks for exceeding quota.” and an unwritten rule was that we wouldn’t talk business over this team lunch. It was really a team building exercise because everyone got to go to lunch, and nobody wanted to be the one who was below quota. I think we only missed a few lunches in my time, and never two in a row. I think this was part of the reason our Division was the top performer in our company.

One of the best people I know who used lunches effectively was a colleague, Misha Sivan.  When we were working on a data warehouse project together, if we had a stretch goal, Misha would say to the development team we’d take them out for lunch if they delivered on that goal.  That project was completed inside 16 weeks from concept to live and the lunches were not just ways to rewarding goal achievements, they also served as a way to build team cohesion and spirit.

The underlying principle through all of this is the delivery of feedback on a regular basis, not just once a year. I think most people appreciate acknowledgement of their efforts and achievements and sometimes it’s the little things, such as those notes or lunches, that they appreciate the most. And, when the time comes to do the annual performance review that HR wants on file, there should be no surprises because feedback has been delivered.  It’s just a matter of collecting and summarizing in the performance review report.

What You Can Do

  • Get out of your office on a daily basis to interact with your staff. It also signals you’re approachable if they need help.
  • Catch them doing things right, and let them know you’re pleased with the job they’ve done.
  • When an employee has done a nice job on a report, send back a copy with a handwritten note or even just some comments written in the margins.
  • Even if the report isn’t great, write in some comments to show where they could have done better and maybe suggest other ways they could have done things.

 

Giving informal feedback on a regular basis has two very positive effects: you reinforce good behaviours so employees keep doing them and you help them change negative behaviours sooner than if you waited a year for their next performance review. By making your employees feel they are valued, you really help them become engaged in their work.