Archive for category Employee Engagement

Moving from Employee Engagement to Employee Work Passion: 3 Key Ideas and Resources to Help You Get Started

Next Level LeadershipOnce an individual in an official manager role recognizes there is more to do than simply manage the activity of others, a great opportunity exists to take leadership to a next level—by creating employee work passion.

While often seen as comparable to the generic idea of employee engagement, employee work passion is actually a carefully identified construct. It is about leaders creating a work environment where direct reports perform at a high level, apply discretionary effort as needed, stay with an organization, recommend the organization to others, and act as good corporate citizens. This is an important distinction and one that has garnered The Ken Blanchard Companies recent awards for excellence in research and cutting edge application.*

Blanchard’s core research has identified 12 work environment factors that lead to intentions by employees to perform in a positive manner. The research has also identified the individual process employees go through in determining whether any specific work environment is deserving of their best efforts. This is the missing ingredient in so many of today’s engagement initiatives—and a major reason for the lack of improvement after their implementation.

Leaders looking to improve engagement scores in their organizations can learn from Blanchard’s research findings. Here are three key takeaways.

  1. Evaluate your present work environment. Review Blanchard’s 12 Employee Work Passion Factors. Consider what you could do as a leader to enhance your work environment in each area. If you are a senior leader, think about how your agency promotes and supports larger culture initiatives and how leadership training can develop and support leaders at all levels.
  2. Understand the personal nature of employee engagement. Recognize ways that each employee is unique. Engage in conversations with employees about their experiences in each of the 12 areas. Take the time to learn more about individual work styles, the manner in which direct reports choose to receive feedback, and how they prefer to be supported in the completion of work activities. Adjust as necessary.
  3. See leadership as a partnership. Work together with employees to make necessary changes. The good news is that partnering with them will signal that you value their agenda as much as your own. This alone will help build connectedness, credibility, respect and commitment. People who perceive their manager to be “others-focused” tend to score higher in each of the employee work passion intentions.

Employees appreciate working for a manager who has their best interests at heart. When managers value both results and people, they put the needs, desires, and effectiveness of their teams ahead of any personal agenda. Agency leadership must begin to acknowledge that how people feel about the way they are treated and managed is a key component to long-term success. This treatment is an integral part of the relationships that are established, built, and maintained by leaders at all levels.

For more information on improving employee work passion in your department or agency, be sure to download The Ken Blanchard Companies’ government-focused four page overview which looks specifically at increasing levels of employee work passion in a government agency setting. It’s available for immediate download at the government section of the Blanchard website. For complete access to all Blanchard research, please visit the Blanchard research archives.

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*Shuck, B., Ghosh, R., Zigarmi, D., and Nimon, K. 2013. “The Jingle Jangle of Employee Engagement: Further Exploration of the Emerging Construct and Implications for Workplace Learning and Performance.” Human Resource Development Review. Volume 14, issue 1, pages 11–35.

*Zigarmi, D., Nimon, K., Houson, D., Witt, D., and Diehl, J. 2012. “The Work Intention Inventory: Initial Evidence of Construct Validity.” Journal of Business Administration Research. Volume 1, issue 1, pages 13–23.

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Forks, Knives, and Coffee Cups

These three kitchen items might not appear to have much to do with employee engagement. However, as we exit 2014 and enter another year of opportunity and challenge on the employee engagement front, these items are very central to the current debate and necessity to proactively address and improve Employee Viewpoint Survey (EVS) engagement scores.

Specifically, a December 23, 2014 GAO decision (File: B-326021) overturned an arbitrator’s decision to honor a memorandum of understanding enabling the National Weather Service to provide disposable plates, cups, and cutlery for employees. An arbitrator issued an opinion on December 19, 2013 supporting the purchase of these items as they could help Commerce maintain a healthy work environment and employee sickness could be an inconvenience to the agency. Further, the arbitrator noted that employees might spend less time away from their work stations if they were provided disposable items rather than having to wash non-disposable items in break rooms.

Seems like a reasonable decision and one that promotes engagement in addition to a healthy and productive work environment.

On the other hand, the National Weather Service’s acting chief financial officer directed management to stop purchasing the disposable items because it is illegal to use appropriated funds to purchase items for the personal convenience, comfort, or protection of employees. This directive was based on a 1924 decision of the Comptroller General, issued during the Calvin Coolidge Administration.

The GAO decision banning these purchases relies on statute stipulating that any such purchase has to advance the agency mission and that the benefit accruing to the agency has to clearly outweigh the ancillary benefit to the employee.

An appeal requiring the expenditure of additional taxpayer funds will now follow the GAO decision.

Is engagement related to agency mission?

This scenario clearly illustrates the debate surrounding the focus on employee engagement and how enhanced engagement supports desired agency outcomes. Sure, the disposable kitchen items were purchased as part of an H1N1 flu preparedness plan of action. However, in the spirit of the time-tested Hawthorne studies conducted at Western Electric, one could fashion an argument that the cutlery and cups are a negligible expense that does support the agency mission by “putting a spring in the step” of employees. That is, when attention is provided to employees, there is empirical evidence that productivity increases. Consequently, whether or not the disposable items support flu prevention, there is a dimension of improving engagement and consequently agency mission.

Looking at this issue in another way, the question has to be asked: what does the disposable item intervention cost on a per employee basis? The equation looks like this: (Walmart cost of disposable forks, knives, plates, and hot/cold cups [$598.30 for a one time supply of 5,000 units per item]) / 5,000 (# of National Weather Service employees) = $.12 (12 cents) per employee. How many other engagement interventions can be acquired for an investment of a few cents per employee? In fact, the arbitration, GAO review, and appeal will cost more than the one-time cost of these items.

Three fundamental issues

  1. Should the acting CFO have relied on a 1924 decision to support the directive?
  2. When will engagement be unequivocally understood and recognized as fundamentally central to achieving world class public service and improved EVS results?
  3. When will leaders be fully trained in leadership practices and held accountable for facilitating decisions that support engagement (particularly when the costs are so negligible)?

There is a reason why the current Administration has a People & Culture initiative. It’s simple: nothing gets done without people. Therefore, a motivated and engaged workforce is central to agency mission and provides high levels of service to the taxpayer. Whether or not the GAO decision is fundamentally sound (which we will find out upon appeal), there must be a hard look at the state of human capital strategy if this decision is representative of what is occurring inside our federal agencies. Given the state of EVS trends and recent results, we should not be reading about decisions banning the purchase of cutlery; rather, investments in the public sector workforce.

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Time for Action!

Time For ActionThe results of the latest Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) remind us it will take a concerted effort to slow down and reverse the decline in engagement scores across the federal workforce.  After four years of declining scores, it’s time for a comprehensive human capital strategy for the largest workforce in the world.

For agency leaders—including chief human capital officers and chief learning officers—The Ken Blanchard Companies has just released a breakthrough pricing opportunity for federal agencies to elevate leadership capacity and address workforce disengagement and dissatisfaction.

Leverages Government Purchasing Power

Blanchard’s Core Solutions License Package allows all agencies to meet their missions with greater flexibility and effectiveness by offering a tiered-pricing model based on headcount. The package enables agencies to leverage combined government-buying power and have greater access to training solutions at the individual, team and executive levels than ever before. The train-the-trainer qualification process quickly moves agencies to self-reliance, an important ingredient to reducing dependency on outside consulting fees.

The annual licensing solution allows agencies to implement a proven, affordable, award winning end-to-end Leadership Development Maturity curriculum, resulting in more than $1 billion in savings if adopted government-wide.

Applying a value-based, people-centric tool that is comprehensive at all levels gives agencies the ability to realize a common passion and accountability throughout an organization. As accessibility to training is a primary success factor for many government organizations, Blanchard’s solutions package grants agencies a transformative approach to motivate and evolve the nation’s most critical workforce.

Enhanced Return on Investment Where It Is Needed Most

As Paul Wilson, Blanchard’s vice president of federal solutions identifies, “These solutions allow for unprecedented savings and training advancements to make a tangible, substantial impact and enhanced return on investment where it’s needed most – our federal workforce.”

You can learn more about Blanchard’s approach to a comprehensive human capital strategy via this press release. To view Blanchard’s full suite of solutions, visit www.kenblanchard.com/licensing-package-for-gov

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The Largest Workforce on the Planet

Business People Silhouettes With North American Flag Speech BubbDoesn’t it seem odd that when industry, Wall Street, and academia consider and explore human capital strategy and best practices, United States government workforce practices are usually not cited as a standard to emulate? It’s even more peculiar when you  consider that our federal government is the world’s largest workforce with three million individuals on the payroll, providing services and products on a scale parallel to some of the most valuable publicly traded companies in the world.

The results of the 2014 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) point to several opportunities and challenges in the government workforce. For example:

  1. Only 62 percent of federal workforce respondents indicated they would recommend their organization as a good place to work—down from 69 percent in 2011.
  2. Just 38 percent of respondents believe survey results will be used to make the agency a better place to work. This trend has steadily dropped from 45 to 38 percent over the past four survey cycles (2011-2014).
  3. A mere 38 percent of the respondents believe that senior leaders generate high levels of motivation and commitment in the workforce.
  4. From an information sharing and recognition perspective, only 46 percent of the respondents are satisfied with information provided by management and just 45 percent are satisfied with the recognition that is received for doing a good job.
  5. Overall, only 50 percent of the respondents have a high level of respect for their senior leaders.

Although these trends are not necessarily unique from a human capital strategy perspective, it makes you wonder what it will take to help the world’s largest workforce begin to move the needle on human capital management. The good news is that an increase in taxes is not necessary. Instead, the manner in which strategy is designed and deployed needs to be developed across agencies in order to:

  • effectively support teams of employees from the front lines —give them a voice;
  • reduce overlap and leverage buying power; and
  • utilize experts who can accelerate the development of practice and policy by drawing from practical and proven experience.

My last post argued that there is not a difference between private and public sector leadership capabilities and corresponding organization outcomes. In the context of developing and leading the world’s largest workforce, there is much to be gained by an open and thoughtful exchange between private and public sector human capital strategy executives. In my next post, I’ll begin to explore those strategies.

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Moving the Employee Engagement Needle

Engage Button On Computer Pc Keyboard KeyEngaged workers use three less sick days each year than their disengaged counterparts.  In a workforce the size of the federal government, this difference translates to a loss of nearly 19,000 work years annually. That’s one of the startling statistics Paul Wilson, VP of Federal Solutions at The Ken Blanchard Companies, shared at a recent government executive briefing looking at moving the engagement needle.  Pointing to the results of recent Federal Employee Viewpoint Surveys, Wilson identified that an effective employee engagement framework is critical now more than ever.

Part of that framework involves identifying the work factors and understanding the evaluation process workers use in deciding whether a particular work environment is deserving of effort above and beyond basic job requirements.  It is a state of mind that Wilson describes as employee work passion which goes beyond satisfaction, or even engagement at work.

Wilson was joined at the briefing by Dr. Drea Zigarmi, a founding associate and Director of Research at The Ken Blanchard Companies.  Zigarmi shared details on Blanchard’s research into employee work passion including the 12 environmental factors that—when perceived to be present to a high degree in the work environment—result in employees who intend to

  • Perform at a higher level
  • Put in extra effort as needed
  • Act as good corporate citizens
  • Stay with the organization longer
  • Recommend the organization to others

Zigarmi shared how an assessment of employees’ perceptions allows leaders to focus in on the issues that translate into intentions and behaviors moving in the right direction.

At the operational level, managers can begin to think about the four Job Factors and start to explore the degree to which their direct reports feel their needs are being met in each area. Once identified, managers can look at ways to set up the conditions that are more favorable for each factor.

At a strategic level, senior executives can begin looking at ways to shape the organization’s systems, policies, and procedures to address the four Organizational Factors. The scores on the four Relationship Factors will allow leaders at all levels to understand how to improve the connections between people in the organization. The goal is to create a pull-type organization and a workplace environment that invites people to choose to be their best.

With a solid grounding in the latest behavioral science research, the Blanchard approach offers leaders a way to thoroughly understand what is happening in the work environment and how to improve it. By taking a more in-depth look at employee perceptions, their own leader behaviors, and the subsequent impact on intentions and performance, leaders now have a tool that allows them to move the needle and bring out the best in their people.

To learn more about the Blanchard approach and the 12 work environment factors measured, download a four-page overview, The Employee Work Passion Assessment: Moving Beyond Satisfaction.  You can also check out other free Blanchard resources and white papers at the research section of their website.

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3 Tips to Encourage Collaboration

Many of the people I know who work in the public sector were drawn to their jobs by a desire to serve, to make a difference in their community or the country. After landing that first desk job though, I have also seen them lose their drive. If you’ve ever done it, you know, sitting in a cubicle day after day, surrounded by endless paperwork and coworkers who checked out years ago is anything but fun.

Getting stuck in a routine is a hazard of many desk jobs. Being around complacency is often contagious. But you don’t have to catch it and you can help build an environment that is invigorating rather than draining.

  1. Spend time innovating – It will not always be successful but actively spending time thinking about how to improve a processes, offer a better experience to customers, or solve a problem is important. It is not only useful but can be invigorating. You won’t always find a solution but working on problems and processes will keep you and your team focused on a positive future.
  2. Make time to move around – Get up, take a walk, talk to neighbors, or go to someone else’s workspace to ask a question instead of calling. A change of scenery, however small is important. You never know what you’ll learn when you get out of your regular space.
  3. Remind your team to engage their customer – Even if the only customer is internal, make a point to check in and ask if there is anything they would like to see change. It’s easy to operate with blinders on; you can’t always see how others are impacted by your habits and processes. If you and your team make a habit of asking for and responding to feedback you will learn a lot about how others work and what they really need.

Being motivated about work is not about the financial reward but the emotional reward when you experience success and satisfaction from making a meaningful and positive impact. Mixing up the routine and interacting will help create a collaborative environment. Team members can draw on the unique experiences they have which makes everyone stronger. One of my favorite sayings around the office is: “None of us is as smart as all of us”. It is the theme of High Five by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles that explains “the magic of working together”.

How do you keep your team excited about their work?  Is there something you do regularly to remind yourself why you love your job?

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Feedback, Are You Doing it Right?

ListenFeedback is not easy for most people. Learning to give it constructively and receive it gracefully are two skills that can make difficult situations much less so. Getting in the habit of asking for feedback is also important. You should be soliciting feedback from your direct reports, or letting them know that you are interested in hearing what they have to say.

Giving constructive feedback takes some thought. You must consider the impact to the person. It seems simple but the words used, the venue and time chosen, and event the topic of feedback will all make a difference in how it is received.

  1. Know your audience –Some people would be happier to have you praise them privately. If you are giving good feedback be aware of the person’s preference for being praised publically.
  2. Give notice – For negative feedback try to give the person time to get ready to talk about it. If you have regular meetings tell them you want to talk about the issue or project during the meeting, if not set something up specific to the topic.
  3. Plan your words – Remember to separate the tasks, actions, or project from the person. Be sure you will hit all the essential points and be specific. Give examples of what a good job looks like or what has been done well.

Receiving negative feedback gracefully can be even more difficult. No one likes being told their efforts have been for not, or that their work must be redone.  There is a lot to learn from how others see us and welcoming feedback can help you redirect your efforts and be more successful.

  1. Listen for the meaning – Not everyone is good at communicating directly. Difficult conversations sometimes inspire people to tap dance around an issue. Listen for the problem, try to be task specific, and ask for suggestions on how to make a correction.
  2. Ask questions –General feedback is usually only a mask for the problem, you need to learn the specifics so you can make a change.
  3. Agree on expectations – It is easier for many people to be indirect. They get to leave the conversation feeling like they gave you the necessary feedback but you might be left wondering what it is they want. Ask what the person needs or expects from you.

Cultivating truth tellers among your team and being willing to play the role for others is a useful way to actively gauge how effective a leader you are. Learning to give and receive useful feedback takes trust and practice. The benefits of knowing where you stand with your team, being able to make meaningful changes mid-project, and building understanding are so valuable. Much more so than the temporary comfort of avoiding an awkward conversation.

Do you have truth tellers on your team? Do you have any tips for giving good feedback?

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