Category Archives: Employee Engagement

Leveraging the Benefits of an Age Diverse Workplace

Age diversity and inclusion are essential for success in today’s complex workplace. Most employers today recognize the need for diversity, making sure that people of different ethnicities, nationalities, race, sexual orientation, religion, disability status and age are critical to the future of an organization.

The argument for age diversity and inclusion is unrefuted and new research supports that premise. Currently 5 different generations are part of the workforce.

Age diversity improves performance and productivity in the workplace. Companies need to be aware that age is a number not a credential and outdated stereotypes still influence perceptions of age. Comments such as. “He’s too old to master a software program”. Or “she’s too young to…” only serve to dismiss their value. An employee’s knowledge and experience increases with age and a young person with strong skill sets should not be held back.

Research clearly demonstrates how age diversity improves an organization’s performance. Studies find that the productivity of both older and younger workers is higher in companies with mixed age work teams. More specifically, age diversity in teams is positively related to performance when groups tackle complex decision making tasks. Lastly, age diversity leads to greater engagement, teamwork and innovation.

The following are some practices to boost age diversity and inter-generational understanding:

  • Open apprenticeships for workers of all age.
  • Programs to help workers re-enter workforce after a long absence.
  • Facilitation of cross generational mentoring programs.
  • Raising awareness of inter generation differences through training and education.
  • Organizing employee resource groups for support.
  • Actively recruit talent across all ages.

Companies that adhere to these practices will certainly reap the benefits of age diversity and inclusion.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Learning Dynamics offers training, organization development and coaching services that can help your organization grow and excel. Contact us today, call 203.265.7499 or email jdemaio@learningdynamics.com.

www.learningdynamics.com

Employee Experience as the New Competitive Edge

Almost everyone today is familiar with the term “customer experience.” According to Gartner, a leading research and advisory company, 80 percent of businesses compete on the basis of customer experience.   But new research shows that customer experience alone is not enough. Progressive companies are now focusing on “employee experience” as the newest competitive edge.

So, what is “employee experience?”  It is the sum of everything an employee experiences throughout his or her connection to that organization – from recruiting to the end of their employment.  It is not perks, parties, employment branding or employee engagement. Mark Levy, former head of Airbnb, defines it as “anything that sets employees up for success and improves our culture.”   Those companies investing heavily in employee experience often find themselves on the Best Places to Work lists and also have improved profitability as well as two times the average revenue.  With social media commentary available to all, prospective employees review comments made about employee experiences in selecting which companies they wish to apply to.

So, in looking for a new competitive edge for your company, ask yourself how you can enhance and elevate the employee experience in your company.  What processes and practices are in place that set employees up for success and ensure an improved culture? It’s worth the time to ask.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Learning Dynamics offers training, organization development and coaching services that can help your organization grow and excel. Contact us today, call 203.265.7499 or email jdemaio@learningdynamics.com.

Performance Management: Beginning the Discussion

How many of us have heard…or uttered … these phrases in our professional lives?

“I haven’t had a performance review with my boss since I got here.”

“She couldn’t really tell me why I got the performance rating.”

“It’s not fair.  I know I did better than he says I did.”

“He said, I should ‘be happy’”

Are these the comments that stellar organizations and relations are built upon?  I think not.  If this is, or has been, a part of your journey, how can we as leaders make change?  Some believe that change can only occur from the top of an organization.  There is a grass roots component that I believe can enhance your work place and potentially have an impact on the larger organization.  It begins with first level leaders understanding key themes about managing employee performance to better the organization.  I have always thought of these as the key components of understanding outstanding employee performance management:

1.  WHY

2.  WHO

3.  WHAT

4.  HOW

5.  WHEN

Let’s address each of these in successive posts, starting with WHY.

WHY IS PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT IMPORTANT TO THE WORKPLACE?

1.  Critical to Business Success.  Employees must have expectations for performance excellence tied to goals.  Without employee performance expectations aligned with company vision and mission, employees and leaders struggle with focus.  When employee expectations are aligned and met, it is a simple progression that leads to enhanced engagement.

2.  Improves Colleague Engagement.  Simply doing without understanding why limits employee engagement.  Imagine the motivation when an employee actually gets it.  Think of how that employee feels about him/herself and the work required on a project, when they are clear on the importance of how their role relates to the end product.

3.  Drives Individual Employee Development.  As the leader assigns goals and/or objectives, it can be done with an eye toward stretching the ability of the employee.  In so doing, a business-complementary stretch objective is introduced; the employee senses trust on the part of the leader and can more easily align with growth/development opportunities.  Success for both parties is derived from employee growth and business success. Of course, employee accountability for performance is an important part of development and growth.

4.  Enhances Rewards and Recognition Program.  With a clear, established performance program, employees understand what is happening to them.  Comments like those that opened this blog can be reduced and eliminated.

We may even get solid suggestions and recommendations from our employees concerning rewards and recognition.  Talk about engagement!

5.  Incentivizes Employees.  Now we have employees who understand and participate in the organization’s rewards and recognition program. They are bought-in to their individual development objectives. They are engaged because there is clarity and understanding about what they are doing and why.  Because they see the alignment with overall business vision and goals, these employees are now leaning forward, looking for additional opportunities.

Once we have clarity about WHY performance management is valuable, we need to next look at WHO is involved in our performance management process. That is the topic for our next blog.

= = =

This article was written by Gary Steele, Vice President with Learning Dynamics. Visit his personal profile page to learn more about Gary’s career and expertise.

= = =

Learning Dynamics offers several customizable leadership development programs including Coaching for Results. Contact us today to learn how we can help your organization develop your supervisors and managers into leaders.

Don’t Wait to Give This

Black Friday is just behind us, and Cyber Monday is off to a record-breaking pace as everyone searches for holiday gifts at the lowest possible price. Then we will wrap them up and give them to our family, friends, customers, and coworkers over the coming weeks. It’s a fun time of year, for sure.

Our employees are deserving of something, too. We aren’t talking about a box of chocolate or a gift card, but recognition. In nearly every survey and study of the workplace, employees say they wish for more recognition. Giving it, and meaning it, can make the difference between a healthy, vibrant team and a place of drudgery and high turnover.

Here are some of the keys to offering recognition:

Be Timely. The best time to give recognition is when it is earned. Don’t wait. As a leader who is working to generate energy and build a high performance team, you should take a moment to offer recognition while the positive behavior you have seen is still fresh and memorable. If you wait a day or a week, your recognition will be less powerful. The right words at the right time have impact.

Be Specific. They don’t give out the Oscars to actors, directors and the rest without mentioning the film that is being honored. That would be ridiculous. When offering recognition, mention something specific about the performance. “I really appreciate the dedication you showed by staying late to work on that customer issue.”

– – – –

For more on building high performance teams, see Hire It & Inspire It.

– – – –

Link It. Take your recognition to the next level by linking the positive behavior to some immediate or future benefit. Make the connection for your employee so she will understand not just the fact that you appreciate some specific behavior, but how it will affect the company and its customers in the future. To add on to the statement above, “I’m sure your work will improve our relationship with the customer and lead to future sales.”

Be Personal. When offering recognition, make it clear that you, as the employee’s supervisor, personally appreciate the effort made. This one-to-one relationship building will prove valuable over time, especially when you have to ask for some extra effort in the future. Your team members are more likely to perform in a pinch if you have this leadership equity with them.

Be Public. Leverage is the idea here. Public recognition makes the experience that much better for the person receiving it, and it helps others. They can learn what’s important in your firm and how to earn praise themselves. They might even be inspired to perform better. Your public recognition can be delivered in person – maybe a brief department meeting or a stand-up huddle – or any other way that works for you. If you have a multi-shift operation, written recognition on a bulletin board or electronic resource (e.g., email, intranet page) could be appropriate.

Recognition is powerful. It’s free, it’s meaningful, and it works. Give that gift of recognition right now. Make regular, consistent recognition part of your routine to build your high performance team.

= = =

Learning Dynamics helps leaders at every level learn to be better leaders. Bringing Out the Best in Others teaches participants leadership skills to enhance teamwork, morale, and organizational performance. Ask for more information today.

Moving the Needle by Motivating Millennials

Millennials now make up about 40% of the US workforce. As Baby Boomers retire, these youngest workers who were born in the 80’s and 90’s are becoming more important than ever before to the success of your organization. Companies that engage this group will win, while those for which Millennials are a mystery will struggle.

There are things Millennials have in common with everyone else. Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and our youngest employees (Gen Z?), all like to be recognized for doing good work. Who doesn’t like to be appreciated? Also, everyone needs their basic needs met. A reliable paycheck, pleasant work environment, and other base-level considerations must be addressed. That’s the foundation. Here are some ideas to consider, and some things to avoid, as you take the Millennial motivation and management challenge more seriously.

Do These Things

Help Millennials understand the meaning behind their work. Why is what you are asking me to do important? How does it affect others in the company? How does it help our customers? How does this work move us forward in our mission? These and other questions should be answered to get Millennials engaged. It’s not that they enjoy playing 20 Questions; rather, they want to understand how their work is important. Help them connect the dots.

Engage Millennials by showing them corporate values are real. Nearly every industry has been affected by Millennials’ search for authenticity. Whether considering the food they eat, the cars they drive (if they do at all), the clothes they wear, or where they choose to work, Millennials want to know your words are backed by action. If your actions are inconsistent with stated goals and values, you can expect Millennials to head for the exits.

Spend time with career planning. How do you see your youngest employees progressing in the organization? Have you shared this by discussing it directly with them? If not, you run the risk of losing talented people to other organizations that present a more compelling vision. Your Boomers might have been OK with a no-news-is-good-news approach, but that isn’t going to work with your youngest employees.

Respect them and ask for their opinions. Millennials come from different parenting and educational experiences than earlier generations. Relationships have been less rigid and more open. They expect their opinions and ideas to be heard and respected. If they don’t get this chance, they will find somewhere else where their contributions will be considered.

Don’t Do These Things

Expect loyalty. This isn’t your fault. Millennials are a product of the economy they have witnessed and experienced. They know nobody who has experienced lifetime employment with the same company. On the contrary, they have seen parents and others laid off in round after round of downsizings. They do not expect to be with you forever, even if you try to convince them otherwise.

Set rigid work rules and requirements. Why, exactly, do your employees need to be in at 8:30 AM? Why do you want them to dress a certain way? “Why?” is a big question, so be prepared to answer it effectively. If not, you run the risk of being seen as a fossil who makes rules “just because we’ve always done it that way.” You will also alienate this group and lose some great people.

Talk about shareholder value. Millennials are not interested in making the shareholders wealthy. This will be especially true if shareholder interests are in conflict with some other social value. See the comments about authenticity above.

As Millennials continue to grow in importance in the workplace, their contributions can make a significant difference in the performance of your organization. By getting this intelligent, tech-savvy, high-energy group engage in their work and your mission, you can move the performance needle to new highs. Get to know your people and what’s important to them so you all (yes, even your shareholders) can reap the rewards.

= = =

Learning Dynamics can help you maximize the contributions of all generations in your organization. Ask us about Managing a Multigenerational Workforce and other training programs to help your company invest in people.

Sprint or Marathon?

Have you read the New York Times piece on the tough work environment at Amazon? There has been a huge amount of coverage about the article itself and the responses by CEO Jeff Bezos and his lieutenants. Stress, tears, and very long work hours – along with hefty compensation for top performers – are all part of that company’s culture, and it can be argued that it has worked for them.

The bigger questions raised by this discussion are important. What is the culture you want in your organization? What must your organization do to compete and thrive? What do you and your top leaders want the company to be known for?

While the Amazon story gives a clear description of a tough, combative work environment – some might label it a cold meritocracy – it also is one that gets results. If you are competing against Amazon – and that includes most every organization that sells and ships anything – its intense focus on taking market share is one that should cause concern. Your customers are likely buying from them sometimes. What can you do? Do you need to transform your organization by adopting the Amazon culture, or can you get results some other way?

The short answer is this: You can get results however you would like, but your team needs to understand expectations. This starts with the hiring and selection process, through onboarding, and during the employee’s entire stay with your company.

Is your company one that encourages long tenure and values loyalty? Will it settle for 90% effectiveness rather than demanding – often demonstrated with midnight emails and text messages – 110% over months? Do you see your organization made up of a team of people running a metaphorical marathon? If so, then create and nurture a performance management and rewards systems that is consistent with that desired culture.

Is yours an organization that runs at a flat-out sprint? Does it bring in people for a relatively short time, work them hard, and reward them well, fully prepared for short tenure and a constantly active hiring team? Then be sure all of the elements – selection, training, compensation, executive messages, and exit protocols – are consistent with that paradigm.

In the end, there are not necessarily any right or wrong ways to run your business. If everyone is honest, ethical, and in compliance with the law, it is your choice as a leader as to which way lead. Just be clear and consistent, ensuring  all know what to expect. Anything less is dishonest and a path to trouble.

===

Learning Dynamics can help your organization inspire great performance from its people. Visit us today to learn about our leadership programs that allow you to invest in people who will give you great results. Contact us today for more information.

Hire It and Inspire It

Motivation is a topic that is included in several of our most popular Learning Dynamics training programs, and it is always a conversation starter in our classes. The question is this: Can you motivate others?

Class participants think long and hard about this before answering, and most groups are split with their answers. Some say, “Yes, of course.” Then they attempt to explain their reasons.

The other side, of course, says, “No way!”

Whatever your opinion, consider the idea that leaders – managers, supervisors, peers, even people below you in the organizational hierarchy – do not actually create motivation within their followers. Instead, they create the environment in which others can be motivated to bring their best and perform at high levels.

This is the big idea behind employee engagement. How do you get people to do their best, especially when there are so many companies filled with good, smart people who never rise to excellence?

First, think about going to the very beginning of the process. Whether you have a super star or a stunning dud on your team, someone hired that person. What went into the decision making process? Many organizations are placing greater emphasis on personality testing and cultural fit. And it’s for good reason.

Employees will excel where they are given the opportunity to do their best work in environments in which they can thrive. Find the people who will work in your organization as it is, not as you wish it was. And stop trying to pound the square-peg candidate into the square-hole job. If you aren’t sure about fit, get others involved in the selection process. Peer-level interviews can uncover all kinds of things that might not otherwise be discovered.

Once you have the right people, give them the tools, resources, training and empowerment to do the job for which they were hired. These inputs, combined with a strong, recognition-based culture will do wonders for most employees.

In the end, we all want to be included on a team that is aligned with our heads and hearts. Find those people, inspire excellence with leadership support and coaching, and motivation will multiply. Leaders, you cannot motivate others, but you can lead in way so others can find their own motivation.

= = =

Bringing out the Best in Others is one Learning Dynamics training program that teaches leadership skills to create a motivating workplace. Contact us today for more information.

Thanks for Moving us Forward!

Thanks!This week is the time for taking stock of our lives and being thankful. For all, this thought rightly includes our personal lives: family, friends, health and everything else. For leaders, it could and should include some reflection on the contributions that followers – individual contributors and junior leaders – make to create organizational success.

As our consultants facilitate training programs with leading companies, we are always impressed and inspired by the energy that people put into their work. The conversations and insights generated by our classes make it very clear to us that many people, especially those selected for participation in professional development initiatives, put everything they have into driving their organizations forward. They really do care and want to do well. They give a lot of themselves every day.

Another valuable observation that we make is that these people, many leaders in their own right, value the power of a thank you. Simple, free, specific recognition – a note, an email, a phone call, a literal pat on the back – gives these motivated team members the fuel they need to keep contributing at the highest levels.

It is a simple idea, but one worth remembering during Thanksgiving week. As a leader in your organization, don’t just be thankful for what you have. Be thankful for all that everyone does to help you and your company grow and thrive. And be sure to share your thankfulness with those who deserve it.

We at Learning Dynamics are thankful for the opportunity to help our clients build better and stronger organizations by Investing in PeopleTM. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

===

Learning Dynamics offers customizable learning and development programs to help your organization grow and succeed. Bringing out the Best in Others is a powerful training session that will help your supervisors and managers learn to recognize and reinforce the behaviors your company needs to succeed.

Onboarding Investment

The quality of your onboarding experience affects retention and results. We heard this message from several participants at last week’s Bank Trainers Conference (for which Learning Dynamics was a Platinum Sponsor) in New Orleans. Credit unions and banks sent their top training leaders for three days of idea and best practice sharing from learning and development experts, including our own VP Wilbur Pike.

Now, possibly more than any time in the last six years, is a great time to review your onboarding program. Why? With recent improvements in the job market, even entry-level employees have more career options to consider. If they don’t get what they need to feel included, if they feel their jobs are unimportant, they will not stay. Opportunities for more fulfilling work are more plentiful with each passing day.

Here are some things to look at as you examine your initial learning and development program:

Is your onboarding experience interesting and fun? As in many other settings, you will only get one chance to make a great first impression with your newest employees. If they don’t engage quickly, they will get fade. Onboarding becomes boring, and that’s never good.

Do your latest hires understand why their work is important? This is a basic concept in the langauge of employee engagement. Everyone needs to understand how they fit into the organization. They want to know the big picture. Job shadowing and messages directly from top executives (yes, the CEO can visit an onboarding class) can help make this point.

Do your new people have the opportunity to enjoy early success? Success breeds success, so build early opportunities to shine into your onboarding experience. Provide plenty of feedback to create momentum and energy.

A professionally developed learning and development program might seem like a large investment. Compared to costs and time to recruit, hire and train replacements, though, it is a wise one. If your company isn’t ready for more demand-side competition in the labor market, others will win. Let Learning Dynamics know if we can help.

What’s My Part?

Do you agree that people are resistant to change? Many reflexively agree with the idea – and they are often right – but it is not always the case. Sometimes people will embrace change if they just get some information. Most importantly, they want to understand how they fit in.

Whenever a change is made, leaders should go through a check of all communication to ensure that the basics are addressed.

WHAT is happening? What are the most important elements of the change?

WHEN is it happening? Team members need to understand the time frame so they can prepare.

WHY are we doing it? Share as much as you can. Work to be honest about competitive pressures, financial impacts, customer service improvements, and anything else that helped justify the change decision.

——

See “Why Your Change Message isn’t Getting Through” for more about leading change well

——

WHO will lead and participate in the change? Some individuals and workgroups will be affected more than others. Clarify the details.

HOW are we going to do this? Leaders have to explain the plan. Great leaders seek input from their teams to improve engagement and results. Teams that own the change also get through the emotional effects of radical change more quickly than those who are simply affected by it.

And this is where What’s my part?” is critical. If a change is important – and if it isn’t, why are you doing it? – committed employees want to be a part of it. When it succeeds, they want to be able to write themselves into the story, to paint themselves into the picture. Everyone wants to be on a winning team, and every player wants time in the game to make a difference.

Consider all these points and give everyone a chance to be part of the success. This is foundational to teamwork and leadership.

===

Learning Dynamics will help your company’s leaders prepare for, communicate about, and lead change. Visit our website for more information about our many customizable training programs.