Having the basic tools and resources to do one’s work effectively is a fundamental part of the employee experience. When employees accept jobs, they have a reasonable expectation that they will be given the appropriate tools and resources to accomplish the tasks to which they are assigned. When they do not have the appropriate tools and resources, employees become distracted and dissatisfied. It can be very difficult for employees to engage over the long term without the appropriate tools to do their jobs well.
In this podcast episode, we’re joined by DecisionWise consultants, Spencer Taylor and Kenna Bryan, who discuss this topic of tools and resources, including how it can affect the job satisfaction and engagement level of employees, and in turn, enable them to provide a better experience to customers.
Remember when we all thought the Coronavirus shutdowns would only last a month or two? We were so naïve. While restrictions have loosened in some areas, it seems like intermittent shutdowns and work-from-home arrangements are here for the foreseeable future. Many companies will need to set up work-from-home processes for a longer period of time than we originally thought.
Organizations that are not used to employees working from home have had to set up new technology and communication channels to ensure the work gets done. Many of these measures were intended to be temporary for the extenuating circumstances we were in. At some point, as this drags on longer and longer, the circumstances can no longer be seen as “extenuating.” Organizations need to find ways to move forward.
This article is not an attempt to discuss everything an organization needs to do to prepare for prolonged work-from-home arrangements. This article is intended to focus on one aspect that may be neglected or postponed during the current climate: leadership development. Now more than ever, organizations need to be developing leaders who can meet the challenges of the day. Additionally, employees—including leaders—crave growth opportunities. Growth is a key ingredient to keeping people engaged. People want development, and organizations need to develop their people in order to succeed over the long term. Development is often seen as a proactive priority, but the longer you put it off, the sooner it will become a reactive response to poor leadership practices.
Here are three things you can be doing right now to continue ongoing development of leaders:
Virtual or online training is something that is often used when training people on harassment policies or OSHA requirements. It is also frequently used in training for basic job functions. It can also be an effective tool to build leadership effectiveness when used in the right way. One of the powerful aspects of in-person training is that managers get a chance to interact with each other. They get the opportunity to network, to talk about their own management concerns, and to try out techniques on each other.
Pair quality online-training content with virtual facilitated discussions. Discuss the content of the training, and discuss the specific challenges of managers in implementing the content. Organizations are becoming more comfortable with Slack, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams as media for communication. Having a group of managers studying the same online content followed by small group discussions can be a great way to help managers internalize the content and get them to start thinking about how to apply it. As a side benefit, the virtual discussion groups may lead to organic networking and collaboration between managers in different areas.
360-Degree Feedback and Coaching
Though training can be a great way to introduce theories and practices to managers, they will not fully know how well they are applying leadership practices without feedback. While working from home, leaders will lack the consistent, everyday contact from their managers, their peers, and their employees where spontaneous feedback is often shared. When meeting in person, sometimes that feedback is shared verbally, and sometimes it is shared non-verbally. Either way, there are ways for managers to sense where they stand. Working from home presents a feedback challenge. 360-degree feedback has long been a powerful tool in leadership development, but it might be even more useful now. It provides a confidential setting where direct reports and peers can provide structured feedback on competencies and behaviors that are important to the organization.
Any 360-degree feedback is best received along with at least some coaching. A 60 to 90 recap of the results of a 360 with an experienced coach can help managers process the information, prioritize development areas, and create an action plan or a way forward. All of this can be done virtually and for minimal expense.
360-degree feedback can be a particularly positive experience for high-potential leaders. In this case, the assessment is being performed and the action plan is being built with the future in mind. It becomes a pure development exercise. 360 assessments can be paired with psychometric assessments that measure personality traits, emotional intelligence, critical thinking, or conflict styles to enrich development discussions and goal making. These programs create excitement and engagement in high-potential leaders, and they help organizations develop the leaders they will inevitably need in the future.
Manager Check-in Meeting
For development purposes, let’s look at manager check-in meetings from two different angles. Organizations can help managers develop by having them check in regularly with their own managers. They can also help managers develop by providing tools, principles, and guidance for conducting their own effective check-in meetings with employees.
Very often the manager check-in becomes a tactical discussion about current work, roadblocks, and general mental and emotional stress. Most managers have some process for checking in 1 on 1 with their employees. How these meetings are conducted, and the content of these meetings vary widely from manager to manager even within organizations. To improve the quality and consistency of these meetings, , organizations should provide guidelines for how often the meetings should be conducted, for how long, and what should be discussed. Most managers intuit their way through check-ins, lacking any sort of expectations being set by the organization. An important part of leadership development is teaching managers how to have effective check-ins with employees.
This is especially true for leaders checking in with leaders. Top leaders can exemplify effective check-ins with the leaders who report to them. These meetings should be filled with feedback and development discussions. Top leaders should understand the goals and ambitions of the managers who report to them, and they should help them in accomplishing their goals. This 1-on-1 feedback and development should then cascade through the rest of the organization.
Providing structure and tools for these discussions can help ensure that managers will know what to cover in check-ins and will help employees know what to expect in these discussions.
Any growing company will see leadership development as a critical part of planning for the future. While these things are often put on hold during extraordinary, global events, when those global events drag on for long periods of time, there comes a time when organizations need to reprioritize development. There are obviously many ways to develop work-from-home leaders. These are just a few relatively low-cost ideas. Investing the time and resources into this now can help to engage leaders in the near term and prepare for the long-term growth and sustainability of your organization.
While working remotely can be a challenge, here’s how to make it a positive experience for your employees.
1. Create a Sense of Normalcy
When our world turns upside down, sometimes we instinctively abandon anything that resembles the way we’ve been DOING things. If you actively resist this tendency, your people will be better for it.
If certain meetings were on the CALENDAR before, keep them there unless they truly cannot happen in a virtual format.
2. Sustain Momentum on People Initiatives
Taking your focus off employee DEVELOPMENT in the midst of this crisis would be like putting a blindfold on a pilot about to land an aircraft in the middle of a lightning storm.
Remind your people that they are VALUABLE! With fear and doubt crossing your employee’s minds, the last thing they need is for leaders to lose sight of the runway right when it matters most.
3. Enable Deeper Connection
You may end up onboarding new members of your team as remote workers. This means they will shape their opinion of the organization based on VIRTUAL INTERACTIONS with you and their teams.
Deliberately plan ‘getting to know you’ video chats to create REAL CONNECTIONS between new and existing team members.
4. Virtual Lunch N’ Learn
While we may not be able to sit across the table at lunch anymore, we can still eat “together” using technology while we DISCUSS a topic of interest or just get to know each other better.
5. Engage People With Better Listening
Once employees transition to working remotely, the “out of sight, out of mind” paradox kicks in. The HEALTHY CHATTER that keeps people interested throughout the workday is difficult to replicate in the virtual world but not impossible.
Ask employees what they think about, what NEW IDEAS they have, or what keeps them up at night in their chaotic new reality. This will allow you to prioritize your efforts and help your people feel heard.
Hunter S. Thompson, an American author and journalist, was once asked for some career advice. Thompson’s response is both poignant and perceptive. His advice also aligns precisely with what we know from our decades of research. Each of us needs to find meaning and impact from our work to realize our full potential.
In 1958, Hume Logan wrote his friend, Thompson, soliciting advice on what to do with his life. Thompson’s entire letter is worth reading, but it is this paragraph that resonates with me[i].
But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors— but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal. In every man, heredity and environment have combined to produce a creature of certain abilities and desires— including a deeply ingrained need to function in such a way that his life will be MEANINGFUL. A man has to BE something; he has to matter.
Thompson turns our traditional thinking on its head. Instead of seeking a career path of which others approve or which may safely navigate Logan through life, he challenges Logan to seek a vocation that aligns to who Logan is as a person and that will allow Logan’s lifework to matter – it must be meaningful. Thompson is spot on. We all want to matter.
Yet, how can Thompson’s advice apply to someone who is already in the middle of their career? Or what if your vocational choice does not involve saving babies or educating young minds? Let me forcefully state that meaning does not have to be grandiose or well-publicized on social media. It can be simple and pure.
I know of a man who was a postal carrier his entire working life. He walked the same neighborhood streets for 40 years. In weather of all kind, he delivered important information to countless individuals and families – both good and bad. His hands held draft notices, college acceptance letters, and correspondence filled with sorrow and regret. This man was careful, unassuming, and frugal. With a small endowment that he carefully nurtured over the years, he sent many of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren to college. I find enormous meaning in that life – one that was largely unnoticed.
As you reflect on meaning in your career, consider these three questions:
Do I make life better for people? For example, do I teach others, tend to their comfort and wellbeing, or do my products make people smile? Do I facilitate another’s success? Am I their loving caregiver? Do I make delicious food?
Am I making my own life or my family’s life better? There is no shame in putting food on the table or providing stability. That type of life matters. I am reminded of man whose job it was to empty garbage cans at various locations around his small town, including the car washes. Each day he carefully combed through the dust bins underneath the vacuums looking for loose change. From this unpleasant task, he ensured his family went to Disneyland each summer, and, in those moments, he built a family and memories that transcended his lowly job title.
How am I helping my organization succeed? Do not just show up at work. Make a difference! No matter what role you are serving in or how far down the ladder you may be, be a force for good. Have a positive attitude, be helpful, and do your best. If you are giving your best, you will succeed, and your contributions will matter in ways you never expected. For example, Mary Barra, CEO and Chairman at General Motors, started her career with GM as an assembly-line worker.[ii]
Some of you might answer positively to all three of my questions, but I would suggest you must have a good answer to at least one. If not, then some reflection and change is needed. In some way or fashion, you need to know and believe that your work matters. If not, then it’s just another job. I reiterate what Thompson said, a person has to be something, they have to matter. Your challenge? Find that meaning.
In this podcast, Dr. Tracy Maylett and Charles Rogel review the concepts behind ENGAGEMENT MAGIC, including the research behind the five keys of engagement, and provide answers to the following questions:
How can being engaged personally benefit employees and organizations?
What is the difference between engagement and satisfaction?
How does each of the five ENGAGEMENT MAGIC elements help increase engagement?
How do you enable your employees to take ownership of their own engagement?
Where does engagement fit into the overall employee experience, and can managers foster an engaging work environment?
As a special bonus, we’ll also provide an inside look at our new ENGAGEMENT MAGIC online training option.
With the recent shift of many employees working remotely, connection seems to be universally craved now more than ever before. Connection is, in fact, a basic human need, residing on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs just above physical safety. And yet, research shows that 40% of employees feel isolated at work, leading to lower employee engagement.
Connection in the workplace is the feeling of being part of a community engaged in something bigger than any one person. There’s a sense of belonging to the organization and the people around you. There’s a deep sense not only of social camaraderie but of kinship, shared culture, values, customers, and mission.
When employees feel a deep, strong connection, they are more likely to expend extra energy for one another, to give more to the organization, and to be more positive in the things they say both at work and away from it. Effort, attention to quality and detail, and morale go up . . . and generally, so do profits. Connection can make a team more than the sum of its parts.
Stages of Connection that Drive Employee Engagement
Connection doesn’t happen all at once. It’s rare for a new employee to join an organization and immediately feel they are fully integrated as part of a team. Instead, people typically pass through a few preliminary stages before achieving connection:
Fit. Fit is similarity to, or a congruence with, an employer’s culture or environment. This might manifest as an appreciation for the physical artifacts in the work space, a connection to the social structure, an appreciation for the work environment (digging your cubicle, the break room, etc.), job fit, or a fit with the organization as a whole. People who fit with an organization may find that the people working there have a career or educational background like their own or that the work being done is the kind of work they trained for and enjoy. They fit in with the company.
Belonging. If fit exists, then employees may move on to feel that they belong with the organization. Belonging includes sharing the same values as the company, enjoying work, and experiencing motivation and reward.
Integration. Once employees feel they belong, they become an integral part of the organization. Rather than being just a part of the organization, the organization is a part of who they are.
Case Study: The Ritz Carlton Demonstrates The Results of Full Integration
We can learn a lot about connection and fully integrated employees from The Ritz Carlton and the following experience. John DiJulius was a guest at the Ritz Carlton Sarasota in Florida. While leaving in a rush for the airport, he forgot his laptop charger in his hotel room. DiJulius said, “I planned to call when I got back into my office, but before I could, I received a next-day air package from The Ritz Carlton Sarasota. In it was my charger, with a note saying, ‘Mr. DiJulius, I wanted to make sure we got this to you right away. I am sure you need it, and just in case, I sent you an extra charger for your laptop.’ The note was signed by Larry K. Kinney, in Loss Prevention.”
The Ritz Carlton customer service stories are legendary and for good reason. They demonstrate what it means to have fully integrated employees. Larry Kinney was not just a Ritz Carlton employee; The Ritz Carlton and its “Gold Standards” became a connected part of who he is.
Connection is an essential factor for whether an employee chooses to engage or not. Consider your employees’ experience at your organization. Where might they fall in the stages of connection? How could you foster a greater or more meaningful connection for your employees? Finding answers to these questions will help your employees become fully integrated and connected to the mission of your organization.
In this Engaging People Podcast episode, DecisionWise VP of Consulting, Christian Nielson discusses the topic of creating a connection at work.
Connection is a sense of belonging and feeling like we’re part of something bigger than ourselves; a team, an organization, a mission. We have such a strong need for connection as human beings that some will even forgo physiological needs to reach it. In fact, connection consistently shows up as the #1 driver of engagement in our surveys. When we feel like we belong, we tend to bring our best ideas to our work.
Learn more about how to create a sense of connection on a social level, but also connecting employees to the vision and mission of your organization.
Impact is about results. It’s incremental progress toward a goal, and small wins that lead to big outcomes. We all need to see that the work we do is contributing to our own goals, the success of our team, those whom we serve, and the organization we are a part of. It’s the difference between simply showing up for work and knowing that we’re an integral part of the day’s operations.
In this Engaging People Podcast episode, Dan Deka, Senior Consultant and Executive Coach at DecisionWise, explores the importance of impact in the workplace, it’s connection to meaning, effort and goals, and how managers can use it to drive engagement.