Posts Tagged employee engagement
Two new articles by motivation expert Susan Fowler point to some of the challenges leaders face in trying to create an engaging and motivating work environment for team members. The two big challenges? Weaning yourself and others off suboptimal motivators—which Fowler labels as “junk food” motivation—and focusing instead on six best practices that support autonomy, relatedness and competence.
In The Science Behind Why You Don’t Feel Motivated, Fowler shares that people bring different motivational outlooks to the projects they face at work. Three of these outlooks are suboptimal—disinterested, imposed, and external. Fowler asks readers to consider a couple of questions to identify if they might be exhibiting signs of one of these three outlooks. Ask yourself, Am I…
- Unable to find value or meaning in the project?
- Feeling imposed? Is there someone pressuring me to get this done? Am I pressuring myself?
- Feeling resentful?
- Fearful of what might happen if I don’t do it? Am I concerned about disappointing someone else—or myself?
- Doing the work in an effort to avoid guilt or shame?
- Doing the work for the money?
- Doing the work with hopes of gaining favor, power or status in the eyes of others?
- Am I taking this on to impress someone else?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, your motivation is suboptimal explains Fowler.
“Suboptimal motivation is like junk food. Think about what happens when you are low on energy and go for the quick fix—a candy bar, an order of fries, a caffeinated drink. Your blood sugar spikes and then you crash. That doughnut tasted really good going down, but it didn’t do your body any good—especially in the long term. When your motivation is based on disinterest, external rewards (tangible and intangible), or feeling imposed, you will simply not have the energy, vitality or sense of well-being required to achieve your goals.”
To move in a better direction Fowler suggests a different approach. In an article on What to Do When Rewards and Incentives Don’t Work Fowler recommends looking at three basic human needs and three ways to rediscover your own personal motivation.
As she explains, “The best motivation comes from three basic psychological needs: autonomy, relatedness and competence, or ARC. When psychological needs are satisfied, people flourish. When these needs are undermined, people languish.”
You can wean yourself—and others—off carrots and sticks by adopting six motivation best practices that support autonomy, relatedness and competence. Here are Fowler’s recommendations:
Encourage autonomy. Frame deadlines as useful information critical for achieving important goals rather than sticks for applying pressure.
Deepen relatedness. Reframe metrics that have no emotional meaning. Conduct motivational outlook conversations with employees to help them attribute their own sense of meaning to critical organizational goals and outcomes. You cannot impose your values or feelings on others, but you can guide their exploration of values and sense of purpose they find compelling.
Develop people’s competence. Focus on setting learning goals, not just output goals. Shift your focus from accomplishment to building competence. Instead of just asking, “What did you get done today?” try asking, “What did you learn today?”
Promote mindfulness. Prompt awareness of options a person may not have considered. Ask questions such as “Why is this important to you (or not)?” and “Why are you finding this goal so challenging (or rewarding)?” These simple yet powerful, open-ended questions help individuals rise above patterns of behavior that often sabotage their best intentions.
Align with values. Conduct a values conversation with individuals you lead. They may have succumbed to suboptimal motivation based on money, rewards, incentives, power, status, fear, pressure, guilt or shame because they have not consciously or deliberately aligned their work to meaningful values that generate sustained positive energy, vitality and sense of well-being.
Connect to purpose. Your organization has probably spent enormous resources crafting and socializing its vision, purpose and mission. Now help individuals do the same. Encourage the people you lead to develop their own workplace purpose statements. There are few things in life more powerful than acting from a noble purpose.
As Fowler encourages, “The more mindful you are, the more opportunity you have to shift to an optimal motivational outlook. Motivation is a skill. You can learn to experience high-quality motivation any time and any place you choose.”
You can read more on Susan Fowler’s approach to motivation at SUCCESS online.
Organizations and agencies of all sizes hope to create a work environment where people perform at a high level, go above and beyond when needed, stay with and endorse the organization as a good place to work, and act as good organizational citizens. But are leaders in these organizations actively measuring employee perceptions and dealing with low scores as they are discovered?
In a new article for Chief Learning Officer researchers at The Ken Blanchard Companies recommend leaders measure employee work intentions in five key areas to focus their efforts: Discretionary Effort, Intent to Perform, Intent to Endorse, Intent to Remain, and Organizational Citizenship
Discretionary Effort: The Blanchard research shows that people are more apt to go the extra mile when they have autonomy and variety in their role. Peer relationships also influence discretionary effort. The more connected an individual is to his or her colleagues, the more likely he or she is to expend extra energy on behalf of the organization. People feel good about working extra hard when they believe the organization they are working for treats them fairly.
Intent to Perform: Blanchard data shows the more that people feel their jobs contain variety and include more than routine tasks, the greater their intention is to perform at a high level. Autonomy also plays a large role in performance intentions because people feel the need to have the freedom to decide how their tasks are performed and the authority to do their jobs.
Intent to Endorse: Blanchard research also identified that fairness in the work environment influences an individual’s willingness to endorse the organization as a good place to work and to recommend it to their family, friends, and potential customers. Most people also have a need to feel support for both their job and career growth. Autonomy also has influence on the intent to perform.
Intent to Remain: The Blanchard data indicated that the intent to stay with an organization is a statement of confidence in leadership as well as the organization. Lack of growth opportunities, fair benefits, and adequate pay cause intent to stay to diminish over time.
Organizational Citizenship: The Blanchard research also found that individuals who feel more highly connected to their colleagues and see their workplace as collaborative tend to focus more on the welfare of the organization. This connection is due to the concepts of sportsmanship, fair play, and taking care of others.
6 Recommendations for Leaders
Are you creating the type of environment that encourages your best people to stay and perform at high levels? The Blanchard researchers share six ways to get started drawing from their studies into 12 Employee Work Passion Factors.
Increase Task Variety. Scores on all five key intentions improve when employees have a variety in type and complexity of tasks
Provide Meaningful Work. Communicating vision, the value of an employee’s contribution to the organization, and the organization’s contribution to the community are important to people, and can influence intentions to Remain, Perform at a High Level, Endorse, and Engage in Organizational Citizenship Behaviors
Promote Procedural Fairness. Apply policies and procedures fairly to all employees to improve intentions to Perform, Remain, and Apply Discretionary Effort
Increase Autonomy. Allow people flexibility in how they accomplish their work and approach their jobs to improve intentions to Apply Discretionary Effort, Perform at a High Level, and Engage in Organizational Citizenship Behaviors
Encourage Employee Connections. Foster the development of personal and professional relationships among employees to influence the intention to Apply Discretionary Effort and Engage in Organizational Citizenship Behaviors
Offer Job and Career Growth Opportunities and Exhibit Distributive Fairness. Make sure compensation and distribution of resources are fair to improve employees’ Intention to Remain
It’s people and their associated behaviors—not just spreadsheets and action plans—that drive successful projects. An effective manager-employee connection is vital: everyone has times when they need support, direction, and encouragement to stay energized and committed. Still, the notion of managers establishing and sustaining relationships with their people is often overshadowed by the day-to-day work of managing projects.
Here are four relationship building practices managers can use to help employees stay focused, stay energized, and COPE with workplace demands.
- Career planning. When employees believe there are options for advancement, they are more likely to have a high level of commitment. But it is important to remember that career advancement means different things to different people. One person might have a desire to lead others while another is content to be a specialist without supervisory responsibility. Successful leaders open a dialogue about specific options that are important to each employee, review potential paths to achieving goals, and maintain an ongoing conversation.
- Open door approach. Next, employees need to see the manager as easily accessible. An open door approach is a relationship building tool that enables a trusting, two-way dialogue. This can be achieved through MBWA (management by walking around—somewhat of a lost art); one-on-one meetings that create a safe harbor for exchange; reserving time in the office for employees to visit as desired; and using 360-degree feedback. Reserved office hours might take many of us back to university days when professors welcomed a visit to discuss a class assignment or clarify a topic. In addition to gathering needed information, these hours were conducive to relationship building—students knew they would be welcome without appointment or concern about interrupting workflow.
- Problem solving. The open door approach not only creates an environment and opportunity for exchange, it also provides a forum for problem solving. Problem solving often requires the support of others—and its success can depend upon the extent and effectiveness of the manager-employee relationship. If a solution calls for a change in policy, an allocation of resources, or something else requiring a manager’s involvement, the presence of a quality manager-employee relationship will smooth the process.
- Engaged Innovation. Innovation can move the agency needle on breakthroughs related to delivering the best public service. Often the answer to recurring and persistent issues can be found at the point of delivery: customer-facing employees will likely have ideas on how to remove obstacles to success. Bringing these innovative ideas forward requires engagement on the part of the manager and the employee—and the level of engagement is based on the success of their relationship.
Every agency should explore the degree to which leaders acknowledge, understand, and participate in relationship building. This is not a “nice-to-have” task; effective manager-employee relationships should be an important component of every workplace.
The time has come to think about performance appraisal as more than just a dreaded, required, annual exercise. No one would argue that performance appraisal needs to include “accountability, fairness, and alignment with the function and strategy of the agency” (U.S. Office of Personnel Management). But what is missing from this purpose statement is how these elements—and others—can contribute to better employee engagement.
Blanchard research into the factors that create a passionate work environment include performance expectations, feedback, and fairness as recommended leadership focus areas. What would happen if leaders were trained to consider and use performance appraisal as a tool to “peel the onion back” to determine how engagement levels relate to performance outcomes?
For example, the performance appraisal process might include conversations in these four areas:
- Barriers to high performance. Discuss the environmental factors that may be inhibiting maximum performance. This gets team members thinking about work processes that might be underdeveloped or inefficient.
- Opportunities for improvement and change. This element is useful for seeking continuous improvement input. It also could identify growth and autonomy opportunities for direct reports.
- Support for both meeting and exceeding expectations. In addition to measuring past performance against agreed-to expectations, be sure to include discussion on ways to improve performance outcomes going forward.
- Commitment and passion. Have an open conversation about the importance of maximum engagement and the things that may be either limiting or supporting it. This is the perfect opportunity to check for work commitment and the factors that can lead to improved engagement.
Incorporating a broader view and talking about engagement can help agencies improve the performance management process. With guidance and training, leaders can identify and remove barriers, seek ideas for continuous improvement, and establish ways to maximize work passion.
To learn more about the Blanchard approach to engagement, visit the company’s online research archive. All white papers are available for free immediate download.
Does customer service really matter in the public sector? Isn’t the act of working in the public sector the fulfillment of service? Not in the eyes of the taxpayer, according to the latest report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).
In its 2014 report, the ACSI identifies that “Americans are less satisfied with services of the U.S. federal government for a second consecutive year, as citizen satisfaction recedes 2.6% to an ACSI score of 64.4 (scale of 0 to 100). Overall, the services of the federal government continue to deliver a level of customer satisfaction below the private sector, and the downturn this year exacerbates the difference. Among more than 40 industries covered by the ACSI, only Internet service providers have a lower score.”
There is, and should be, an expectation that customer service be delivered in the public sector in a way that at least meets, or more preferably, exceeds, the expectations of the American public.
With the American public expecting service comparable to what they receive in the private sector, how do our public sector agencies ensure that they meet expectations? Leadership and employee engagement are the critical elements that develop a culture and spirit of service.
Research conducted by The Ken Blanchard Companies found a strong relationship between leadership practices, employee work passion, and customer service scores. Better leadership practices—at a strategic and operational level—lead to higher levels of employee work passion and customer satisfaction.
Strategic Leadership and Operational Leadership
From a leadership perspective, resources in the form of information and resources to do one’s job must be allocated. That is, the workforce is only as good as the tools they have to perform their roles.
Strategic leadership defines the imperatives for everyone in the organization. It is the what that provides the key relationships and metrics needed to ensure that all units follow the same strategy. Examples of strategic leadership include vision, culture, and the declaration of strategic imperatives.
Operational leadership practices provide the how in the organization. This enables departments and employees to understand how they specifically contribute to organization success. They are the procedures and policies that clarify how each unit will achieve the overall strategy.
For instance, extraordinary client service cannot be delivered unless appropriate response times are established and communicated to those responsible for delivering service. Response time can be defined in minutes or days, but an operational definition must be developed and communicated so that the appropriate workforce understands the expectation, trends can be measured, and corrective actions can be implemented as necessary.
But that is only half the job. Defining service goals is a somewhat useless exercise unless a passion exists to deliver on the goal. This passion must be fostered and nurtured by agency leadership. Rather than a culture where the workforce sees the act of responding to public inquiries as drudgery, leadership must create an environment where there is a passion for service.
This requires specialized knowledge—but many leaders have never learned how to create this vision and passion for service. They are not naturally focused on or committed to building a customer service ethic. It’s not because they lack desire—it’s because they lack know-how.
A great place to start exploring how leadership can impact service is through the white papers: The Leadership Profit Chain, Leadership Purpose Chain in Government Agencies, and Employee Work Passion: Connecting the Dots.
For more information on how The Ken Blanchard Companies helps organizations and agencies define, promote, and deliver on a culture of outstanding service, visit www.kenblanchard.com/government
People don’t show up to work as robots—they are human beings with hearts, minds, and feelings. Today’s leaders must be adept at recognizing and embracing psychological needs, especially as they relate to performance and engagement.
How do leaders accomplish this? The answer can be found in the latest research on employee work passion and the factors that contribute to it.
It is a given that employees are motivated in some way. Their motivation might not always align with desired behavior and outcomes, but it is there. To channel employee energy toward larger agency goals, leaders have to embrace tools and techniques that address common needs that people bring to any work environment, including desires for collaboration, connectedness, and an opportunity to influence decisions that impact their work.
Here are three ways to get started:
- Include employees in the planning process. Seek employee perspectives on how to execute agency mission. For instance, how can administrators include front line personnel in developing customer care strategies?
- Ask people for their opinion. Doing so in a genuine way is an easy, no cost way to create passion and a sense of ownership toward the success of any initiative.
- Share information. Sharing senior leaders’ viewpoints as well as progress toward objectives is another low cost method that promotes inclusion.
Individuals are more committed when they know and have some say in the direction of the agency. Think of it this way: would you like to be told where you will spend your vacation, or would you prefer to be given options, information on each option, and a chance to participate in the decision process?
Information and a corresponding participatory process create more commitment, engagement, and passion than a directive decision process. By considering ways to increase inclusiveness, collaboration, and connectedness, leaders can take their first steps toward creating a more passionate and engaging work environment for their people.
For more information (and access to research) on how The Ken Blanchard Companies helps agency leaders develop motivational strategies that directly support employee work passion, please visit www.kenblanchard.com/
Research by The Ken Blanchard Companies shows that employees are constantly appraising their work experiences—and that their intent to stay, use discretionary effort, perform at a high level, endorse the organization, and be good organizational citizens translates into behaviors that can be positive or negative.
Employee intentions can also influence the opinions of others—especially in the case of a disgruntled employee who, through social media or other channels, expresses negative views. When that happens, one individual’s pessimistic attitude can shape the intentions of many other prospective employees, potentially resulting in their being negatively influenced about joining the federal government workforce.
Blanchard’s ongoing research into employee work passion has identified 12 factors that influence employee perceptions of whether or not a specific work environment is deserving of their loyalty and best effort. These factors can be grouped into three broad categories.
Job factors. These include Meaningful Work, Autonomy, Task Variety, and Workload Balance. This area should be fairly straightforward and achievable for government agencies. While much debate has existed about the size of the government workforce and corresponding budgets, there is minimal argument about the significance of the work. Individual autonomy—when earned—is in everyone’s best interest. Leaders need to learn how to empower and delegate while also having in place an appropriate check and balance system to prevent errors and catastrophic failures. Task variety is also important. Leaders should be well versed in how to minimize repetitive tasks when making assignments. Workload balance also needs to be factored in to avoid employee burnout.
Organizational factors. These address fairness—both Distributive Justice, having to do with pay, and Procedural Justice, which involves decision making. Performance Expectations and Growth opportunities are also under this category. Employees want to know that compensation and decision making are fair. Leaders can demonstrate fairness by ensuring that merit increases, career growth, and performance evaluation processes are as transparent as possible. Another important driver in this category is the degree to which information is shared. Leaders need to err on the side of openness whenever possible, to ensure there is a steady flow of information sharing.
Relationship factors. These look at how connected employees are with their colleagues and also with their leaders. This is basic leadership, and involves the degree to which leaders are visibly and actively connecting to their teams with regular communication. Many employees, especially those that are salaried, spend a majority of their waking hours working. Developing relationships is critical to creating a sense of Connectedness (both with Colleagues and Leader.) Feedback and Collaboration also play a role. Leaders can enhance a sense of connectedness by demonstrating an interest in their teams, encouraging collaboration, and providing feedback. This can be accomplished in a relatively simple way by inquiring about tasks at hand and their progress, discussing resources that might be needed to perform the work, and generating ideas for continuous improvement.
Perceptions, Intentions, and Performance
Don’t let negative employee intentions undermine your agency’s culture and performance. When leaders understand and act on employee perceptions and intentions, overall engagement and productivity will improve. To learn more about The Ken Blanchard Companies’ research in this area, and how this information has helped private and public sector clients develop leadership practices that foster positive employee intentions, visit Blanchard’s research page.