Category Archives: Employee Engagement

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.

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

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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.

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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.

Gossip & Politics Bringing You Down?

What brings production to a halt in your office? Is it gossip? Facebook? Uncertainty? One of our Learning Dynamics Senior Consultants shared her viewpoint and experience this way: “When I worked with one organization, I remember how much productivity was lost. It seemed that the top three reasons for most of it were lack of employee engagement, gossip and politicking.”

There have been books written about employee engagement and our Learning Dynamics blog has several articles on the topic, so we are not going to tackle that here. But what about gossip and politicking? As you survey your work environment, are you detecting any of this? If so, here are some ideas on how to break it up. If you are not detecting it, could you look and listen a little more closely?

Listen to the Grapevine. Some managers state, “I never get involved in the grapevine. It’s a waste of time.” If this is you, reconsider. The grapevine, the rumor mill, and the quiet conversations in the lunch room can be valuable sources of information. Managers who listen to the office rumblings can do something about it. Those who are oblivious, obviously, cannot.

Sunshine. Shed some light on the subject. Lots of it! There is nothing like truth directly from the boss to dispel rumors and get everyone back to work. Use every channel at your disposal to spread the word. This includes email, newsletters, bulletin boards, internal web sites and group huddles. A simple message that starts with “You might have heard…now here’s the truth…” can work wonders.

Recognize Performers. Politics surge when people are uncertain and when they perceive that there is something to be gained. Effective leaders can quell this activity by recognizing top performers consistently and publicly. This includes small actions and big ones, including promotions and greater job responsibilities. If the low-performing politicians see that it isn’t working, and that hard work and results define success, they just might get back to work.

Accessible Leaders. An open door can encourage employees to face issues head-on. If they know that they can get straight answers from the boss, that the door is open, then why will they want to gossip and speculate?

No work place is perfect, and people are going to talk, but it can get better. As our Senior Consultant noted, these unproductive activities cost time and money. Recognize the reality and face it with real action.

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Learning Dynamics can bring customized leadership training to your team. Give you managers the tools they need to maximize results with Learning Dynamics.

People and (not “or”) Machines

people and machinesToyota is taking tasks back from the robots. A compelling piece on Quartz explains that the carmaker’s executives realized that people still play an important role in production and that something is lost when employees do little more than feed the machine. Humans use their creativity and wisdom to envision new and better ways of doing a job, while computers and robots simply follow their programs. It’s a big difference. Toyota’s quality and efficiency have improved as a result.

There is something to be learned from this for all business leaders. While computers and robotics have helped us make giant improvements in quality, reliability and safety, and they handle many monotonous mind-numbing tasks that people don’t want to do, people still contribute in a special way. Creativity is part of it. Intuition, inspiration and joyful experimentation make a difference, too.

Have you ever seen a technology implementation deliver less than expected? How about a new process or an outsourcing initiative to failed to achieve its goals? Is it possible that the best people have had their roles reduced or eliminated and something has been lost?

Maybe the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle. A strategy where the best, most talented people are engaged and inspired to create, while the machines do the heavy lifting, should be explored. Until the day when computers can think for themselves – and that is still a long time away (we hope) – the spark and serendipitous discovery that only happen when people have a part will make a critical difference.

What is your organization doing to train, inspire and retain its best people, those who can “master the machines”? Who are your masters, or who will be with enough time, training and development.

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Learning Dynamics offers a wide range of training and development solutions for progressive, forward-looking organizations.

Mixed Messages Hurt Motivation

We frequently hear blunt, unvarnished truth when conducting training classes. A recent class was no exception when we discussed employee engagement and recognition. Many in the class were sharing positive examples of things their companies do to encourage engagement. One did not.

The message was something like this: “We have a terrible work environment, and management tries to whitewash it with meaningless recognition programs and short-lived efforts that don’t help.” How many of us would like to hear this from our people? How many managers will get the opportunity?

This comment, and the heads that nodded in agreement, illustrate an important point. Employee engagement does not happen by accident. It requires work. Managers have to create and foster an environment in which people are recognized for their contributions and feel that the work they do is important. Leaders must provide the tools and support to help employees be successful in their jobs.

Quick-hit programs may be nice for the short-term, but they cannot be used in place of the much more challenging job of building culture. A company-logo water bottle or “Pizza Friday” will not replace genuine, specific feedback and appreciation for a job well-done.

Hopefully your organization does not have people who feel this way, but it might. Why not find out? Start asking questions or take a survey to give your people the chance to tell you how they feel. Given the right venue, they will share, and you will have something to work with.

Trinkets and swag do not drive engagement. Meaningful work that makes a difference does. Create a culture that uses tools to reinforce and enhance strong culture, not one that encourages a conversation about mixed messages.

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Learning Dynamics can help your organization with coaching skills and ideas to develop high performance teams. Visit our programs page for more information.

LMX: Are You Engaging?

LMX

Leader Member Exchange Drives Engagement

Great employee engagement has been shown to drive better sales, service and profitability. It makes sense, even without numbers to support the claim. It stands to reason that employees who believe in the corporate mission, have the tools they need, understand how their work is important, and intend to stick around will perform better than their disengaged peers. Jumping up a level, the engaged team or organization will stomp on its rivals, winning market share and raving fans for customers.

How do leaders play a role? There is a vast body of research that points to the importance of “Leader Member Exchange” or LMX. LMX is focused on the quality, content and frequency of interactions between leaders and team members. Those leaders who can connect with their team members in individual, meaningful ways tend to have more engaged people and better results. Knowing this is different than doing this, of course.

Some say that people are born leaders. We can make the opposite case, though, by focusing on this element of leadership. It is something that can be trained and measured. For example, we can ask a new supervisor to schedule and complete weekly 15-minute one-on-one conversations with each member of her team. This easily trained and measured tactic can help a person develop and grow as a leader. And this is just one example.

While some people are more charismatic than others, and will have an advantage in getting people to follow, charisma is neither sufficient nor predictive. Personality only gets one so far. The rest is about learning leadership skills, using them, practicing and having real impact on an organization and its results.

Leadership can be learned. Good leaders create effective, engaging LMX environments. Engaged teams win. It’s a simple chain of actions and results that define victory.

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Learning Dynamics offers comprehensive leadership training and development solutions including Investing in People. Contact us to learn how we can help you create an engaging environment that creates winning teams and outstanding results.

Leading & Developing Millennials: 4 Tips

Millenials Gen YDeloitte’s 2014 Millenials Survey offers insight into the youngest working generation’s thinking that many of us might not have considered. These early-career professionals, and future leaders of our organizations, have strong opinions on the role of business and how they evaluate an organization for which they will or are currently working. One of the strongest opinions – three out of four said this – “believe their organizations could do more to develop future leaders.”

What are some things that your organization could be doing to say, “Yes, we are developing the next generation,” and mean it? Here are some ideas:

Give Challenging Assignments: The same survey said that over three-quarters want to work for innovative organizations. Having the chance to contribute creatively can make a difference. How can you stretch your young professionals with assignments that will energize and challenge them?

Formalize Mentoring: Match an experienced person with a new leader, and give them the time that they need to work together. Document the progress. Formalize the program with objectives and measured outcomes. Celebrate success.

Invest in Training and Development: This might sound self-serving coming from a training organization, but it makes a difference. Create a program to allow young professionals the opportunity to earn their way into advanced skills and leadership training. Publicize the program, the participants, and the results.

Mission & Values: Ask for Ideas: The survey also says that Millennials want to work for an organization that makes a difference. This doesn’t necessarily mean non-profits; it does mean that your organization can make a positive impact on society while earning healthy profits. Encourage their insights, creativity and values. Tie this into your other initiatives.

Most importantly, talk to your team. They will tell you what they are thinking if given the chance. If you need more help, contact us at Learning Dynamics for training and organization development solutions.

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Learning Dynamics offers customized training solutions for organizations of every type and size. Managing a Multi-Generational Workforce is one of our programs that can help you engage your company’s next leaders.

Three Critical Motivators

Do you know what motivates your people? It has often been said that the key to managing and motivating others is to know the person you are working to motivate. Knowing each person’s experience and skills is the first step. Step two is more important: Know what drives and motivates your people to succeed.

In the literature, there are three critical motivators every manager needs to understand. Most people fall into one of these three, or some combination, to varying degrees:

Affiliation: Some people seek out others for validation. They are happiest working in teams and belonging to a group.  They thrive on and enjoy the camaraderie that comes with being associated with others. The socialization and interaction with team members feeds them well and becomes the prime reason for their success.

Achievement: These individuals are driven to succeed and be rewarded based on their own contributions and ideas. Recognition and goal attainment are critical to their success. They are propelled by a desire to be better, succeed and make a difference.

Power:  This category states that having influence and control over others is critical to their internal drive. They thrive on being in the spotlight and climbing the ladder of success to the top. They are usually self-involved and driven to succeed.

Do you know your direct reports? Are they motivated by Affiliation, Achievement or Power? These are not difficult to understand but they do make a difference when trying to motivate or encourage them. Apply your tactics and approach to fit the needs of the individual. This will go a long way in getting better results for you, the team and the company.

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Written by Barbara Phillips, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Learning Dynamics. Barbara, like all Learning Dynamics team members, offers extensive professional leadership experience to benefit our clients.

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Do you supervisors and managers know this? Could it help your organization if managers knew how to understand and inspire their teams? Contact Learning Dynamics to learn how we can help your organization grow by Investing in People™.

Notes from a Graduation

diplomaSometimes you just have to be there to fully appreciate the difference that training can make in someone’s life. In the case of the dozens of participants in an English language acquisition class – or ESL, if you prefer – it was a moment of pride and excitement.

One of our Connecticut industrial clients realized that their business unit could be more efficient if its very diverse employee population could communicate better. The client looked at options and hired Learning Dynamics to do the training in their facility. We provided expert instructors, customized the content to integrate job, company and industry-specific language, and held classes several times weekly.

Many made huge strides in their English proficiency.

The graduation was like a party, with certificates, music, and family members in attendance. A Well-deserved sense of accomplishment was in abundance. Here are two of the comments (paraphrased) from the graduates:

“I appreciate my company for providing this language training.”

“It’s great that the organization invested in us with this training. It is helping in my job and in my life outside work.”

Learning Dynamics is already deep into the next class schedules, with another large group learning English and preparing to be more effective. More classes are planned.

Yes, this was an intelligent business decision by our client. It offers plenty of ROI. But it is also a reminder of how an innovative organization can help their employees with relevant training. We can only guess as to how this will drive employee engagement and loyalty to new levels. We expect that everyone will be pleased.

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Learning Dynamics offers customized ESL training created and delivered by experienced expert instructors. Read more about this employer’s ESL initiative here.

Engaging Your Multi-Generational Team

One of the most talked about topics in management circles is employee engagement. How can we get our people more engaged? We know that engaged employees are more productive, so how can we create an engaging environment? Why do some employees respond while others seem indifferent? How can we get buy-in from our oldest and youngest employees?

In an exhaustive review of the literature concerning engagement and generational differences, Nancy M. Schullery of Western Michigan University (Business Communication Quarterly, June 2013) describes the significant differences in how the Millennial, Gen X and Baby Boomer generations view the importance of intrinsic, extrinsic and other elements of the workplace. We won’t try to summarize a 15 page paper in a sentence, but one takeaway is that younger people place more value on the rewards of the work than their older peers. There are many other differences.

Knowing that supervisors and managers will have to lead and engage people from across multiple generations, what are senior executives to do? How can they fulfill their responsibility to provide the resources to their junior leaders so that they can get needed results in an ultra-competitive economy?

First, understanding that there are differences in what motivates employees from different generations is a start. The 60-something Boomer might enjoy the work for its own sake; the 23 year old Millennial is probably more interested in the paycheck that enables non-work activities.

Second, everyone in a management role should know how to balance the needs of the organization with the varied needs and wants of the employees. No matter what, the work stills needs to be done.

Finally, leaders need to be ready to deal with the inter-generational conflicts that will inevitably happen. Emily, the pierced and tattooed administrative assistant just might have a difference of opinion with James, her ex-military 40-something Gen X boss. Handling these situations quickly, professionally and effectively is critical.

If your organization is not realizing and appreciating the varied viewpoints of its people, chances are you are missing out on an opportunity to maximize engagement and effectiveness. Training your leaders to expect and manage differences can make a big difference. Harnessing the talent of your entire team is worth the effort.

Learning Dynamics can help you develop the skills to develop and manage a multi-gen workforce. Facilitator-led and e-module training solutions are available.

Building “Virtual” Teamwork : More than Clear E-mail

Virtual Team – By Robert Day, Learning Dynamics Consultant

What is your attitude about remote teamwork? In your view, is a remote team just a poor substitute for a team located together? Are the tools of instant internet communication just a replacement for face-to-face contact?  Do you see your main challenge in managing distance workers or telecommuters as a matter of keeping them from being unproductive? If you answered “yes” to any and all of those questions, I’ll say first that yours is a common reaction. Many view virtual leadership as a half-empty glass (at best).

We’ve had the tools of remote wireless communication available for almost 30 years, but managers and leaders in all types of organizations are still struggling.  Building effective teams and developing productive management styles with telecommuting, dispersed, mobile, and overseas colleagues requires skill and a plan.

I’d like to suggest that when it comes to managing virtual teams, effectiveness starts by seeing dispersed locations not as obstacles, but as opportunities to build bridges.  Jeff Edinger argues in his Harvard Business Review blog that remote workers are more focused, more committed, and more disciplined than groups that are “co-located” (in the same location).

There is an “if” to that: if the teams have effective leadership.  Effective remote leaders have learned how to develop focus, accountability, and creativity with their colleagues. They know how to motivate them, and how to make best use of all their communication tools.  Most of all, they have learned how to build trust and commitment.

When it comes to managing virtual teams, then, the glass is a lot more than half full.  If you approach your remote management responsibilities with that attitude, you’ve made the best possible start to effectively leading your virtual team.

Many strategies and techniques for leading virtual teams have emerged, largely through trial and error (or success!). Learning Dynamics offers an online module, Managing Virtual Teams, that covers the best of these. Let Learning Dynamics help you maximize the effectiveness of your company’s virtual teams.