Monthly Archives: March 2007

Generational Differences: A Bad Driver in Employee Engagement

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Nine and thirty-nine – from http://www.flickr.com/photos/emdot/

We often think people of different generations are bad drivers. Older drivers look at younger drivers in disdain while younger drivers think older drivers should get off the road.

Yet, when it comes to employee engagement Watson Wyatt just released data to suggest that different generations share the same engagement drivers and that generational differences in drivers of engagement are not as wide as perceived.

The #1 driver of employee engagement for all ages was strategic direction and leadership. The only exception was employees between 30-39 who believed that rewards (pay & benefits) was the #1 driver. This generation rated strategic direction / leadership as the #2 driver while all the other generations rated rewards as the #2 driver.

Communication was a part of the #3 driver for all the generations. The different generations in the workplace from under 30 to over 60 and all the ages in between rated leadership, rewards, and communication as the key drivers of engagement.

Debra Horsfield from Watson Wyatt concluded: “employers should avoid an emphasis on labels and instead focus on commonalities in what motivates employees.”

This makes intuitive sense to me because even though I am 52, my three teenagers listen to the same rock music as me. At times, we seem worlds apart but often we share so much in common.

I think we often overestimate generational differences at the neglect of commonalities. If you want to read an informative book on generational influences at work I highly recommend Jennifer J. Deal’s book discussing the research on the common ground between the young and old, Retiring the Generation Gap.

Here were the 10 key principles she developed in her book:

  1. All generations have similar values; They just express them differently
  2. Everyone wants respect: They just don’t define it the same way
  3. Trust matters
  4. People want leaders who are credible and trustworthy
  5. Organizational politics is a problem — No matter how old (or young) you are
  6. No one really likes change
  7. Loyalty depends on the context, not on the generation
  8. It’s as easy to retain a young person as an older one — If you do the right things
  9. Everyone wants to learn — More than just about anything else
  10. Almost everyone wants a coach.

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Real Perks: Monday Morning Percolator #6

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Percolator Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/sti/

You might have wondered why this series is called the Monday Morning Percolator.

Monday is the day most of us start our work week. Morning is when we wake up and coffee is often used to transition from sleep to work.

In the age of designer coffee, why an old fashioned percolator and perked coffee when you can have 87,000 different beverage choices from Starbucks?

It may seem paradoxical to use an old coffee icon to look at employee engagement – a relatively new term in the workplace. Yet I appreciate how these old coffee percolators slowly made coffee while infiltrating the room with a coffee aroma and a soothing perking sound as the water bubbled to the top of the percolator and flowed down through the waiting coffee.

I believe effective engagement is a slow process that goes right to the top of the organization and flows through everyone within an organization. Authentic and engaging percolation helps everyone within an organization gain and gather energy.

Some workplace try to ignite engagement with a few perks. These privileges or tangible items given as part of a compensation package are nice but I don’t believe they foster genuine and sustained engagement.

I think real perking take time to seep through our daily grind and transform out jobs into engaging work.

There is an art in making coffee with a percolator. According to wikipedia:

As the brew continually drips through the grounds, the overall temperature of the liquid approaches boiling point, at which stage the “perking” action (the characteristic spurting sound the pot makes) stops, and the coffee is ready for drinking. In a manual percolator it is important to remove or reduce the heat at this point, as most coffee-drinkers agree that it should never be allowed to boil; an adage to this effect states, “Coffee boiled is coffee spoiled“.

Do you take your time to brew a robust fully engaged organization while ensuring that tasks and emotions don’t boil over?

Perk-Ups:

  1. Perk-Ups is the new subtitle for the action section of the Monday Morning Percolator. Much like a push up will strengthen you physically, a perk up will strengthen your mental, emotional, and relationship engagement. Similar to a push up, when you first start they can be hard to do and quite draining but with regular practice you will gather strength as you continue in your training and practice.
  2. Take 10 minutes to perk up on Monday morning. Develop and practice a Monday morning routine that helps you let go of the weekend and begin your focus on the work ahead for the week. This routine needs to be short and powerful – don’t let it take any longer than the time it takes to make a great pot of coffee. Your perk-up could be 10 minutes of freewriting about the week ahead. You could connect with two co-workers to hear about their weekend and what their plans are for this week. You could devote 10 minutes of concentrated focus to 1 or 2 pivotal goals you have set for the week ahead.

What are you waiting for? Get perking.

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Zinger’s Employee Engagement Rant (Part 1)

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Part 1: Lies, damn lies, and statistics

I’m angry, even a bit ticked off.  If you read my blogs you know that I seldom if ever rant. But I am ticked off at all the measurement of employee engagement where employees tick off measurement boxes in private, an outside company collates all the measurement, and the organization receives general results and recommendations from someone not directly involved in the organization’s engagement.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not against measurement I just don’t believe that anonymous and confidential surveys really address or respond to employee engagement.

Too often the central issues in measuring employee engagement seems research and statistical centered: private, confidential, reliable, valid, and with statistical significance. After much cost, and use of employees’ precious time, impressive numbers are generated and the lofty conclusion: more research is required.

Yet in a recent meta-analysis by the Conference Board – the central conclusion in study after study that involved millions of employees around the world, was that it was the employee’s relationship with their direct leader that was the single biggest driver of employee engagement.

If we know that, why do we persist in these large scale anonymous studies? How does it help to get a measurement of overall organizational engagement without employees talking directly with each other and their leaders?

Couragous Measurement

I advocate a new measurement method in employee engagement: courageous measurement. In courageous measurement leaders and employees work together, the results are transparent, and everyone is accountable for improving engagement – employees, leaders, and the organization.  Employees have the courage to genuinely rate and voice how engaged they are, leaders have the courage to do this for themselves, and leaders are courageous to hear what is said followed by the gumption to make changes to enhance engagement.

In Part 2 of my rant, I will offer a connected and genuine response to measurement that naturally leads to intervention and action. What good is a rant without an equally relevant response that addresses the nature of the rant?

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Get Engaged:

  1. If you are a leader, sit down with employees and discuss their engagement. Keep doing this again and again.
  2. When you encounter someone who is disengaged collaborate with them to rekindle their engagement. If engagement can’t be rekindled determine what changes need to occur.
  3. In Part 2 of this rant, I will provide a link to a down-to-earth assessment that can be used as the springboard to conversation and employee engagement conversion.

Employee Engagement: Monday Morning Percolator #4

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As stated in a recent post, the number 1 driver of employee engagement is the relationship with our direct leader.

Sometimes we are fortunate and have a great boss who:

  • provides numerous high quality interactions,
  • demonstrates how we are part of the organization and team,
  • cares about us,
  • encourages our career development,
  • offers genuine appreciation and recognition, 
  •  knows our strengths, and designs our work so we can use our strengths on a daily business.

With these characteristics in place, employee engagement flows from us in rivers of productivity and emotional well-being.

But sometimes we need to manage our boss to foster engagement. How do we do this?

BNET has provided a wonderful set of articles on how to manage our boss. Their feature package includes:

  1. How to manage your boss
  2. Bosses: A field guide
  3. Troubleshoot bad boss behavior
  4. How I got here: Boss-management tips from the pros
  5. Five myths of managing up

The feature provides perspective, humour, insight, and actions to change the relationship.

I loved the humour of the field guide providing a “birder’s eye view” of bosses and their characteristics. For each of the 10 boss types you get a playful image of the type with an outline of the following descriptions: characteristics, plumage, archetype, quote, pros, cons, warning, care and feeding.

In addition to the humour of the field guide the other resources have an eclectic range of useful tips. For example in how to manage your boss you will read about how to:

  1. Make “keeping the boss in the loop” a regular activity
  2. Create a core message for your boss
  3. Tap a vital resource: The boss’s influences
  4. Learn everything you can about your boss’s career
  5. Cultivate compatible personal interests

Get engaged:

  1. If you don’t have the boss you want, put some coffee in the percolator, click into BNET‘s manage your boss feature, and learn to manage the person who manages you.
  2. If you work for someone who creates employee disengagement – don’t leave home for work without this resource.

Employee Engagement: Think-It(2)

Wake up!

Engaging our jobs intelligently and without resistance does not require that we redefine our entire approach to our livelihood. We can engage our jobs sanely and openly without giving up on success or disregarding our feelings or ambitions. What is required is surprisingly ordinary: simply to be who we are where we are, to subtly shift from getting somewhere fast to being somewhere completely. By taking such an approach, we discover not only a larger view of work but also a basic truth about being human: by genuinely being ourselves in the present moment, we naturally become alert, open, and unusually skillful.

From Michael Carroll

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Awake at Work, page 7.

Employee Engagement: In the “Driver’s” Seat!

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The conference board published a report on “Employee Engagement: A Review of Current Research and its Implications.” Patricia Soldati summarized some of the work in a recent post at management-issues.

Looking at 12 different studies the report outlined 26 key drivers of engagement.

At least 4 of the studies agreed on these 8 drivers:

  1. Trust and integrity
  2. Nature of the job
  3. Employee understands how their work contributes to the organization’s performance
  4. Career growth opportunities
  5. Pride about the organization
  6. Relationships with coworkers and team members
  7. Employee development
  8. Relationship with one’s manager

The number 1 driver regardless of age, location or study was the direct relationship with one’s manager.

Hertz had an old slogan about putting you in the driver’s seat but it appears it is the manager or leader who really drives engagement for the organization and the individuals who report to him or her!

The conference board defined employee engagement as

A heightened emotional connection that an employee feels for his or her organization, that influences him or her to exert greater discretionary effort to his or her work.

High levels of engagement influence organization performance and enhance retention, productivity, customer service and loyalty. Highly engaged employees outperform their disengaged counterparts by 20 to 28 per cent.

Get Engaged:

  1. If you are a leader, get behind the wheel and start driving engagement by connecting strongly with the people who report to you.
  2. Become a back seat driver – have a conversation with your leader to ensure she or he is steering you and the organization in the direction of higher employee engagement.