Podcast: Setting Expectations – A Round Table Discussion

In this episode, we’re joined by a panel of DecisionWise consultants who discuss practical ideas for how setting expectations leads to higher employee engagement.

Setting clear expectations gives clarity to our employee’s roles and is a key element to the satisfaction landscape. Employees need to feel a sense of understanding of what success looks like, what their manager expects of them, and how they are expected to contribute to the organization and team’s success.

Our panel of consultants includes Charles Rogel (host), Dan Hoopes, Beth Wilkins, Stephen Mickelson, Christian Nielson, and Thomas Olsen.

Infographic: Employee Engagement Vs. Satisfaction – What’s the Difference?

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Although satisfaction is essential, it’s only part of the employee engagement process. Learn the differences so you can cultivate highly engaged employees in your organization.

The Little Extra

Satisfaction is transactional. In return for their work, companies provide employees with the basics: compensation, tools and resources, physical safety, and respect to name a few.

Engagement is transformational. It contributes to peak experiences that make employees eager to give extra, discretionary effort.

It’s About Time

Satisfaction is about temporary happiness.

Engagement is about long-term feelings of purpose, belonging, growth, and personal accomplishment.

Shared Responsibility

Satisfaction is controlled by the organization.

Engagement is shared by the employer and employee, a 50-50 responsibility.

Show Me the Money

Satisfaction is expensive. Raises, perks, and office extras cost a lot of money.

Engagement can cost nothing but requires a conscious effort.

What’s My Motivation

Satisfaction is based on factors, which don’t necessarily motivate people but when taken away can cause them to be demotivated.

Engagement is about using the heart, spirit, hands, and mind.

More Than a Feeling

Satisfaction involves only feelings.

Engagement involves feelings as well, but also requires action.

To unlock the lasting power of employee engagement, these five ENGAGEMENT MAGIC elements are essential and should be cultivated within an organization:

Learn More About ENGAGEMENT MAGIC Training

Podcast: How To Train Employees To Perform Their Best

Leader hearing employee feedback

In this podcast episode, DecisionWise Principal Consultant, Dan Hoopes, discusses the topic of job training and how you, as a manager, can help employees perform their best.

We tend to treat job training as events to help us perform a task. However, if we can tie training with learning and developing as people, it becomes less of an event and more of an application.

Training is most effective when you can create a cycle of application and reflection, coupled with mentoring and feedback.

It’s important to remember that your leverage as a manager comes not from your individual contribution but from developing the capabilities of people within your span of control and making them better so you can produce better outcomes.

Learn more about these concepts and ideas on job training in this insightful conversation.

Podcast: How Managers Can Better Recognize Employees

In this podcast episode, DecisionWise Principal Consultant, Dan Hoopes, discusses the topic of how managers can better recognize employees in the workplace.

Everybody likes to be acknowledged (in one form or another) for a job well done. We all like to feel validated and yet, many managers are reluctant to give recognition. Why is this?

“One of the biggest travesties to happen with organizations if for a manager to say, ‘Well, it’s just their job.’ Well, of course it’s just their job! But who doesn’t like to be recognized for doing well at just their job,” says Dan Hoopes.

He continues, “If I recognize someone for the things they are doing, it increases their discretionary effort. They’re more highly engaged and they know how to produce faster because they’ve gotten feedback that what they’ve done is right, and they want to do it even more and more.”

Learn more about these concepts and ideas on giving recognition in this insightful conversation.

Webinar: Employee Engagement Best Practices in 2020

Date: Wednesday, January 29, 2020
Time: 1:00 pm (Eastern)
Presenter: Dave Long, VP of Assessment Services
Cost: Free

One question to consider as you think about whether to put effort and investment into employee engagement: “Is engagement worth the effort and investment we put into it?” The short answer to this question is “yes,” but depending on the type of organization you are, engagement may be more critical or less critical to your success.

During this webinar we’ll share the best methods for preparing, administering, and rolling out the results from your employee engagement survey based on over 20 years of experience conducting surveys around the world. We’ll also identify the most common mistakes organizations make when conducting an employee engagement survey and how to avoid them.

Listening to Others – Employee Voice

The Employee Voice

We all want to feel that our experience, ideas, and opinions matter. We want to feel valued by our employers, by our supervisors, and by our teams. In other words, we want to feel heard. The level to which employees feel they can voice their input to an organization that listens, understands, and responds, is what we call, the employee voice.

Nearly every employee engagement survey that DecisionWise runs has items designed to measure different aspects of employee voice. “We listen to and value each other’s thoughts and opinions,” is a common item included in our surveys. This item helps us measure team experience, organization values, employee input, feedback, and suggestions.

Another item we frequently use is, “This organization is responsive to ideas and suggestions for improvement.” Employees want to know: Are you listening? Are you responding? Do you value our feedback? Often a company is confident they have an effective employee voice. However, a survey reveals their employees have not seen or felt the organization’s response to their input.

Address the Opportunity at 3 Levels

I recently worked with a large manufacturing client whose employee survey results showed they were struggling with employee voice. The client asked me, “How do we fix this? How do we make sure our employees feel heard?” I recommended addressing the opportunity from three levels:

1. The Executive Level

2. The Team Level

3. The Organizational Support Level

In my experience, considering the challenge through these lenses is an effective way to design a meaningful response.

Executives discussing employee voice

Executive Level

Fostering the employee voice must start with the executive team. Their opinions and behaviors directly influence the larger culture of the organization. If senior leaders demonstrate that employee input is important, the rest of the leadership structure will notice and follow. Here are some things that I’ve seen executives do to support healthy employee voice:

  • Increase visibility and organic touchpoints – Look for opportunities to interact organically with employees throughout the organization. Walk the floor. Employees often feel that when an executive is visible, they are accessible and listening.
  • Share stories of employee voice – Identify and share stories of employee input benefiting the organization. Champion innovations or improvements that have come from frontline employees.
  • Respond with authenticity – When input from the employees is received, respond promptly and authentically. Even if the answer is “no,” employees value sincere communication and confirmation that they were heard.
Manager listening to others

Team Level

If you want to address challenges with employee voice at the team level, managers must be developed appropriately.  Train all managers on the importance of listening and how to demonstrate to their teams that they and the organization are listening. Some things a manager can do to improve employee voice:

  • Conduct frequent 1:1 meetings to discuss growth & development and to listen to employee ideas, questions, and concerns.
  • Appropriately respond to employee ideas and suggestions to close the feedback loop.
  • Take action on the team’s employee survey results. Enlist team members to prioritize areas of focus and take meaningful action. Frequently discuss progress.
Leader hearing employee feedback

Organizational Level

Strong employee voice requires organizational alignment and support. Technology, process, policy, and the physical environment can all help or hinder employee listening.

It is wise to start with a communication channel audit. Explore which channels are currently available for employee communication. How are they working? Are you reaching everyone (including remote employees)? Large organizations need to have a few more options available if they want to frequently hear from all employees.

Do you have an effective employee listening strategy that helps capture frequent input across the employee lifecycle? The best strategies include onboarding/exit surveys and effective pulsing to help capture and organize employee input.

Employee Voice Matters

One of the most important items included in DecisionWise surveys is the simple statement, “I feel like I belong here.” This item frequently emerges as a statistical driver of deeper engagement. However, how do you help someone feel like they belong? It turns out…you listen to them. Employee voice items are highly correlated to this important area of belonging.

Employees are looking for a deeper sense of meaning, impact, and connection in the workplace experience. One of the best ways to support them is by strengthening the employee voice.

Are you ready to ask yourself that critical question now? What experience are you creating as an executive or manager to help your employees feel heard and understood?

Podcast: Getting the Most Out of Your 360 Experience

In this podcast episode, Dan Deka walks through the ins and out of the 360 survey experience, from both the standpoint of the participant and the manager. You’ll learn about the best practices for administering surveys, the process for selecting raters, recommendations for debrief support, and customizing the survey to best match the values of your organization. We’ll leave better prepared to successfully launch a 360-degree feedback survey.

5 Tips To Master Employee Retention in 2020

Employee Retention team

Every organization has three implicit or explicit contracts: Brand, Transactional, and Psychological. When we consider how to master employee retention, most of the intangible moments and nonverbal interactions in a company fall squarely within the oft-neglected Psychological contract. But as it turns out, it may be the most crucial.

As discussed in the book, The Employee Experience: How to Attract Talent, Retain Top Performers, and Drive Results, the Brand Contract and the Transactional Contract address employee expectations that are typically evident and open. Like the offer letter a new hire receives from her employer spelling out the benefits, job description, and the you-do-this-and-we’ll-give-you-that kind of language. However, other expectations are often obscure and remain unstated. These expectations fall under the Psychological Contract i.e. the unwritten, implicit set of expectations and obligations that define the terms of exchange in a relationship.

Get the Book: The Employee Experience

When talking with organizations about problems they’re facing, they often refer to problems within their company in the same way one would talk about problems with a significant other. “I feel betrayed by the company!” or “This place is really fun/stupid/boring/awesome.” Employees talk about a “lack of trust” in the company’s leadership, or nostalgically reference the “honeymoon” period. But this phenomenon doesn’t end there. We name our cars, confess love for sports teams, and manifest the same brain patterns with brand recognition as we do with religious experiences. All in all, it turns out we have a pretty hard time not anthropomorphize inanimate objects and abstract ideas.

We are on the crest of a new age: the “Age of the Employee.”  Employees are recognizing that they have more power to shape their career path than ever before, and one of the main things they are looking for is, in the most literal sense, a better relationship with their job. If your company isn’t providing it, someone else’s will. Because of this, smart companies will embrace this idea of re-imagining the relationship with their employees as their secret retention advantage. And it becomes much easier once they realize that we already know exactly how to do this. The same research that shows us how to create great interpersonal relationships maps perfectly onto employee relations with their company.

Master Employee Retention Tip #1: Contempt is the great relationship killer

To preserve and foster a great relationship, we have to understand what can threaten it. What’s the number one predictor of divorce? Money usually comes to mind first, but fighting over finances is actually just a symptom of a greater problem. The number one predictor of divorce is actually the presence of contempt. Once a partner sets him or herself above the other, beginning to disregard or dismiss the other, it’s as good as over.

Contempt is an extremely difficult obstacle for a relationship to surmount.

For example, in one organization we worked with, the senior leadership had plenty of great ideas, grandiose projections, and noble values. But none of it was producing company connection because the employees, the boots on the ground, weren’t buying it. For various reasons, they had concluded that their leaders were out of touch and misguided and, as such, every attempt to prove otherwise was perceived in the worst possible way. “Oh you want to give us a raise? What a desperate attempt to curry favor.” This kind of contempt can occur when a company violates their Psychological Contract to the point that employees lose trust and no longer give their employer the benefit of the doubt.

If you want to preserve employee relationships, avoiding the contempt that results from broken contracts needs to be your number one focus. So how exactly can we avoid this death knell? The following tips each provide a piece of the puzzle.

Master Employee Retention Tip #2: Openness and vulnerability are the price of admission

In business terms, we’re talking about transparency and streamlined top-down communication. But in simple relationship terms, we just want partners who aren’t hiding anything. We want trust. Business has a built-in conflict of interest. Employees work hard but often feel their efforts only benefit the CEO’s bottom line. As such, it’s important to deliberately swing the pendulum far back the other way in order to foster confidence. Be open with mistakes. Acknowledge doubt. Be quick to take painful accountability.

Take employees on the ride with you, even when you’re not sure exactly where to go. Trust me, they want to be a bigger part of the company, and when they feel they are, trust and commitment follow. Think of the last friend you had, or someone you dated, that always kept you in the dark about what they were doing or thinking. Someone who kept things “high-level” and only presented a positive façade. How invested were you in that relationship? Not very? So why do we do this to our employees?

Employee Retention Case Study

Master Employee Retention Tip #3: Recognizing bids

Another way to improve our transparency and vulnerability is to be aware of how often we make and accept bids. A bid is a small gesture designed to elicit attention or trust. Imagine a scenario where an employee approaches you, her boss, with an idea or suggestion that is objectively terrible. You gently explain why it probably won’t work and walk away patting yourself on the back for not openly scoffing or getting mad at her for wasting your time. Let’s be honest, you’re the hero here! But it’s not, and never was, just about the content of the idea. She was asking to connect, to have her contributions recognized, and to feel part of the larger discussion. She made a bid for attention and you, though inadvertently, rejected that bid right along with the bad idea. One of the most frequently low-scoring items on our employee engagement surveys is, “This company responds well to suggestions and ideas for change.” That’s a lot of unanswered bids and a lot of missed opportunities to nurture trust.

Master Employee Retention Tip #4: Navigating between equal and equitable

Historically, the employer/employee relationship has been one of hierarchy and imbalanced power. Structurally, it makes sense. An organization needs both leaders who set a direction and followers to help move things forward.

Unfortunately, because of how people naturally gravitate, hierarchy becomes perceived as a value judgment, a statement of relative worth. People farther up the ladder must be more important and therefore better.

When this value judgment trickles into company culture, employees end up doing things because they are told to, rather than because they see the value in their contribution. There is a word for the kind of relationships where one partner is considered inferior and always does what they’re told. And it’s not “healthy” or “stable.”

The Engaging People Podcast

The key to overcoming this negative perception is to embrace the shift toward employees desiring a place at the table. Just getting a paycheck isn’t enough anymore. They want great pay AND meaningful work. Employees need to be valued equally, even while their roles remain equitable. That is to say, everyone contributes in a unique way but all roles are equally valued and respected. A mechanic doesn’t demand to switch places with the pilot. But both are equally important in ensuring a smooth flight, and the pilot knows better than to disregard the person that keeps the plane in the air. So we need to refrain from speaking in terms of totem poles. For example, don’t ever say something like “even the lowest-level employee.”

You may not mean it the way it sounds, but you can understand why someone could hear it that way. And if you ever find yourself dismissing, condescending, or raising your voice at an employee, consider that if that’s not how you would treat a friend, then it’s an abuse of your positional authority and a violation of trust.

Master Employee Retention Tip #5: Loyalty

Loyalty begets loyalty. If we want employees to be loyal to us, showing loyalty to them is critical. My first job was at a fried chicken franchise. I’d seen managers come and go, and most were fairly authoritarian. No matter how many times a counter had already been wiped down, I was expected to put on a show of being busy so as not to displease my manager. After transferring stores, one of my first experiences at the new location was watching a colleague make a mistake and then get berated by a customer.

The customer screamed and ranted and demanded to see the manager, Kevin. When Kevin came out, this customer unleashed a tirade that would make a drill sergeant blush. Not being my first rodeo, I was prepared for the negativity to roll downhill to the rest of us. But instead of validating the customer and raging against us, Kevin immediately grabbed the customer by the shirt front, pulled him over the counter, and uh, sternly informed him to NEVER talk about his employees that way NO MATTER WHAT they had done.

Employee Retention Webinar

As of this writing, I haven’t seen Kevin in 20 years. But to this day, if he ever reached out, I would drop everything to help him. And you better believe that after that he had the cleanest countertops in the business without ever having to ask. What’s more, it was my genuine pleasure to do so. That is the power of loyalty.

And that is the power of having a trusting, meaningful relationship. You can’t buy it and you can’t incentivize it; you can only earn it. Simply showing up never worked for any relationship and it won’t work in business either. So, what effort will you put in to earn a great relationship with your employees?

This is an updated version of  an article previously written by Dave Mason.

Employee Survey