SPRINGVILLE, UTAH, USA — June 1, 2021 – DecisionWise, an employee experience firm, has been awarded a 2021 Judge’s Choice Confirmit ACE (Achievement in Customer Excellence) Award in the Employee Experience category. This award recognizes DecisionWise’s outstanding dedication and success in measuring, understanding, and acting on employee feedback to ensure employees feel connected to the organization and want to engage.
Confirmit, now a Forsta brand, has hosted the renowned ACE Awards since 2005 and every year recognizes some of its most innovative customers. The awards program honors clients dedicated to achieving universal customer excellence and who have demonstrated tangible business improvements as a result. As a recipient of an ACE Award, DecisionWise has proven its commitment to their customers by continually evolving its customer experience program to gather better insights and fuel smarter, faster action. DecisionWise earned the ACE Award based on its Employee Lifecycle Suite of products.
“Receiving a 2021 ACE Award is a real honor, and it acknowledges our mission to help our clients make data-driven decisions,” said Matthew Wride, President, DecisionWise. “By working with Confirmit, now part of the Forsta brand, we’ve been able to build a world-class set of tools that provide insights that help our clients make work better. This ACE Award serves as a recognition of our hard work and encouragement as we strive to help our clients.”
“We are thrilled to recognize DecisionWise as a 2021 ACE Award winner and to acknowledge their application of customer experience best practices that deliver outstanding business performance,” said Kyle Ferguson, CEO of Forsta. “DecisionWise’s program demonstrates their commitment to leveraging the power of understanding and transforming insights into action.”
In March 2021, leading research technology companies Confirmit and FocusVision merged and the company’s new brand, Forsta, was announced in April 2021.
The ACE (Achievement in Customer Excellence) Awards program was established in 2005 to recognize outstanding achievement in customer excellence. Receiving an ACE Award is a distinct honor that demonstrates both rigorous application of customer and employee experience processes and outstanding performance as measured by those processes. All Forsta customers are eligible for ACE Awards for their company, business units, or segments of a business. To be eligible for a 2021 ACE Award, organizations must have conducted one or more VoC or EX surveys between January 1 and December 31, 2020. For more information on awards criteria, visit www.confirmit.com/ace-awards.
DecisionWise is an employee experience consulting firm specializing in leadership and organization development using assessments, feedback, coaching and training. DecisionWise services include employee engagement surveys, 360-degree feedback, employee life cycle (ELC) surveys, leadership coaching, and organization development. DecisionWise was founded in 1996 and is privately held. With area offices in the United States and Brazil, and associates in six other locations throughout the world, DecisionWise operates in over 70 countries and conducts surveys in over 30 languages. For more info, visit: www.decisionwise.com.
About Confirmit, a Forsta Brand
Confirmit’s solutions are built by insights professionals, for insights professionals. Market Research, customer experience and employee engagement consultants around the world rely on our solutions to turn insight into stories that fuel action. The heart of our business is the people behind our technology, and we work as a partner to deliver the flexibility and power you need to understand and manage experiences, emotions, and behaviors so you’re always one step ahead.
Most leaders intuitively understand the importance of building strong employee relations, whether that is to help retain current talent or to create an employee value proposition that attracts others to join your organization. But what exactly do we mean by the term “employee relations”? Does our definition and strategies change depending upon the context we are analyzing?
Defining Employee Relations
In one sense, the concept of employee relations describes the general attitudes employees have towards their employer. In this context, we are talking about employee perceptions, attitudes and beliefs surrounding basic concepts such as general working conditions, employee benefits, worker pay, or their organization’s social impact. Indeed, employee relations is a key component of a recent movement known as ESG investing (environmental, social, corporate governance). This entails focusing on making investments in organizations that behave ethically towards their employees, society at large, and the environment.
At a granular level, we can think of employee relations as the discrete relationships an individual employee has with their employer at various touchpoints. For example, how strong is the relationship an employee has with their supervisor, or how does an employee feel when interacting with HR? The employee experience is, therefore, the sum of these various, distinct relationships. Thus, employee relations can be both individual and collective.
Finally, the term employee relations sometimes has a different connotation when used in the context of worker movements. An example of this might be the desire on the part of employees to organize and collectively bargain. In this setting, employee relations pertains to the balance of power between an organization’s management and its workers. Additionally, employee relations describes the efforts between unions/associations and employers to maintain strong working relationships while respecting each other’s inherent differences of opinions, purposes, and perspectives.
Employee Experience: Listening Strategies
The leaders that will succeed in the next decade are those who will commit to understanding their employee relations and then take action to improve conditions when possible. Employee relations, however, is a multi-faceted concept. Understanding the complexity requires more than an employee survey administered by HR every 18 months (although this is vital, too). Comprehensive EX listening programs use a variety of strategies to understand perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs both longitudinally throughout the year as well as hierarchically throughout the organization.
We recommend the following 7 strategies. These strategies can collectively be designed into an EX listening program to help leaders navigate their employee relations.
1. Use a formal, continuous 360 degree feedback program
A formal, continuous 360-degree feedback program will help managers understand the experience their direct reports and other coworkers are having with that manager. Continuous 360-degree programs are different than an occasional 360-degree assessment used for development purposes. In this setting, 360-degree assessments are regularly administered (somewhere between 12 – 24 months) and managed by the organization’s’ talent development team to ensure leaders have the feedback they need. These programs have the added benefit of producing aggregated data analytics to show larger trends where the organization (or pockets within the organization) are succeeding or struggling.
Managers can receive feedback on how they are doing across various themes, metrics, and categories from quarterly, predefined pulse check-ins. These check-ins are updated quarterly but are short in nature, so they do not impose a burden on employees.
3. Look for ways to integrate performance data
Employee relations is a 50/50 proposition. Yes, we need to understand how employees feel about their experience, but leaders need to know how well employees are doing in moving the organization forward. They need to know which employees are contributing and those that need to improve their performance.
4. Use a mix of confidential and nonconfidential research as part of your EX program
An annual survey is vital because results are aggregated and confidential. This allows employees to voice their concerns without fear of reprisal. Yet, in other ways, we need to know how a specific individual feels. Consider adopting open-text questions sent directly to individuals based on a sampling algorithm. A simple question could be, “Please describe the experience you are having right now at [organization’s name].” These answers can then be processed through robust text analytics models to help uncover themes or concerns.
5. Treat your employees as internal customers
Use customer experience (CX) style check-ins to understand how employees feel about their interactions with HR, IT, etc. A listening program can be structured to trigger feedback requests when a service event takes place. For example, if an employee interacts with the organization’s benefits portal, a pop-up can be inserted that requests feedback, such as “Tell us how we are doing,” followed by a feedback scale.
6. Mine your data exhaust
Data exhaust refers to the vast amount of data that exists in current information systems that can be exported and analyzed for trends, etc. For example, Zoom can tell you how much time your teams are spending on video calls, both internally and externally. For organizations with even more sophisticated data analytics operations, mining data exhaust can be an excellent way to understand the experience employees are having. For example, consider conducting a study on whether calendared meetings (data extracted from IT systems) are too long, too burdensome, or just right.
7. Talk with a DecisionWise Consultant
For those that work with unions or have employees considering their options in this regard, talk with a DecisionWise consultant on how to use EX insights to help manage union relationships. We have successfully helped many clients, in conjunction with labor counsel, to understand and navigate the murky waters that exist when dealing with unions. A strong EX listening program is vital in knowing best how to work with unions and worker movements.
As Peter Drucker once observed, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.” The key to improving employee relations is taking the time to understand the experience your employees are having. This means more than an occasional survey administered by HR. It is about implementing an always-on EX listening program that consistently provides leaders with insights that matter.
In the American West, cattle ranches have long been identified by their livestock brands, the symbols seared into the hides of their animals. Ranch brands were primarily created to help identify lost or stolen animals, but over time they took on a larger meaning for the cowboys employed by the ranch. The phrase “ride for the brand” became a call for all employed by the ranch to work for something larger than themselves, to positively represent their employer in all that they do.
Feeling a deeper sense of connection and purpose with your work is not only important in ranching. It is critical to any organization seeking to foster employee engagement. The Employee Net Promoter score, or eNPS, is one technique organizations use to understand monitor, and improve this sense of purpose. This simple metric is based on a single survey item, “I would recommend this organization as a great place to work.” To calculate eNPS, a score between -100 and 100 is derived which can indicate to leaders how favorably employees feel about their overall employee experience, based on employee responses. In other words, do they ride for the brand?
The eNPS is a helpful lag indicator of the high-level health of the employee experience. But how does an organization strengthen their eNPS? Based on our (DecisionWise) experience surveying and consulting thousands of organizations, two consistent strategies emerge: give employees a voice and give employees a future.
Give Employees a Voice
At DecisionWise we define Employee Voice as the extent to which employees believe their thoughts and opinions are heard and reasonably considered in organizational decisions. Voice is a key component, along with growth, belonging, and organizational commitment, of the DecisionWise framework for measuring Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Employee voice is a core component of an employee’s overall experience. How does voice impact eNPS results?
When we run statistics on our pool of employee survey results, a database of over fifty million responses, we see which items are most positively correlated to healthy eNPS results. One of the strongest correlations is the item, “This organization cares about employees.” Employees reciprocate the level of care shown for them by the organization. Further correlations tell us that employees feel cared for when they feel they are heard. Some of the employee voice items we include in organization surveys include:
This organization values employee input, feedback, and suggestions.
I feel that I can speak up without fear of retribution or negative consequences.
Senior Leaders know what is going on in the organization.
My opinions are sought on issues that affect me and my job.
Employees are constantly looking for evidence that they are heard and valued by their employer. Small moments matter. A one-on-one with a manager where an employee can share concerns, questions, and ideas, or a communication from a senior leader that reflects an understanding of the realities of their role can have a tremendous impact on an employee’s experience. These moments influence perceptions around employee voice and organizational care and ultimately the eNPS results.
Give Employees a Future
One of the best things leaders of an organization can do to spark engagement is to build a strong sense of optimism about the future of the enterprise. Another primary correlate of a strong eNPS is the survey item, “I am confident that this organization has a successful future.” This survey item also frequently shows up as a statistical driver of employee engagement. When employees feel like they are part of a winning team or organization, they naturally want to align themselves with that success. Interestingly, when this happens, engagement goes up and the company’s success is magnified. It becomes a virtuous cycle of engagement building success, and success building engagement.
There is another component necessary to paint a compelling future for employees – the role of the employee in that future. It is not enough for the entity to win. Employees must win with the organization. A compelling future must also hold a role for the employee. A leader or manager must be able to communicate, “We’re doing big things as a company, and you have an important role to play in these efforts and future success.” Growth and development conversations must be tied to the future success of the organization. When this happens, an employee’s sense of meaning, impact, and connection increases and they become more likely to engage. This has a tremendous impact on your eNPS.
The Employee Net Promoter Score is an important measure to track. It is tied to the experience of real human beings. Giving employees a voice and a share in a bright future improves their experience and will, in turn, inspire them to do more to build and promote the organization’s objectives. In other words, they will ride for the brand.
At DecisionWise, we are in the business of driving employee success through experience and feedback. When working with organizations, we focus on their employee experiences, which we define as an organization’s culture understood through the eyes of its employees. Put differently, the employee experience is the way in which employees perceive and are impacted by their work, their supervisors and leaders, and the other various touchpoints they encounter within and around an organization.
When I first started writing and talking about employee success, I tried using a definition that equated the employee experience with what I called “deliberate culture.” This definition, however, proved to be too narrow and a bit over simplistic. Instead, our ongoing research at DecisionWise has led us to discover that there are three, vital interrelated concepts, of which the employee experience is just one component.
These three elements are:
Culture can readily be understood as “the way things are done around a particular place or within a certain group.” Organizations, civic leagues, clubs, families, etc., all have unique cultures. When addressing an organization that has employees, we define culture as those values, norms, guiding beliefs, principles, and common understandings that are shared among members of the organization as the proper way to behave, think, and approach the organization’s work and mission. An organization’s culture is either organic, such that it is created by a myriad of interactions with little shaping by senior leaders. Or, alternatively, culture can be designed and managed – by the organization’s senior leaders – to support and sustain the organization.
2. The Employee Experience
The employee experience is the impact an organization’s culture has on its individual employees. The employee experience is that intersection where an individual bumps into the organization’s culture, either for good or bad. When dealing with an employee’s experience, we are seeking their perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs about what it is like to work at a particular organization or company. Again, the experience tells us how the organization’s shared norms and values are impacting the employee, and when we aggregate the employees’ responses from surveys we send them, we uncover an array of insights that help us know how we might change or strengthen the culture.
3. Employee Engagement
Employee engagement is the positive emotional response employees have to their individual employee experiences. If alignment between the employee experience and the individual’s personality, viewpoints, values, etc., is high, then the individual will bring more of themselves to the organization’s mission and purpose. They will engage in moving the organization forward in a constructive manner. Thus, employee engagement is an outcome; an outcome that is derived from both the organization’s culture and the way the organization’s culture is experienced by its employees.
For years, many of us in this space spoke of an umbrella concept that we called “employee engagement.” The challenge with this approach was that it gave the impression that employee engagement was something you worked on independent of your culture or the corresponding employee experience. What we now better understand is that these three elements do not exist independent from each other, and that the first two elements are drivers of the third element.
For us here at DecisionWise, being precise with our definitions has helped us better deliver value to our clients. We have improved our ability to both measure employee success at various levels and to learn precisely where our efforts have the most impact in growing engagement. I deliberately use the word “grow” in this context. Employee success is not something you build; it is something you grow by carefully cultivating your culture.
How does an organization improve its cultivation efforts? Improvement is found by consistently measuring employee experiences at various points in time and at various stages within the organization. Fundamentally, it’s about taking the time to listen, then seeking to understand, and then acting with genuine intent to improve the culture so that employees can thrive and bring their best selves to work.
Nowadays, we spend much of our time helping our clients understand their cultures by providing them with the data, insights, and recommendations they need to build the right culture for their organization. The reward? Successful business outcomes that are driven by highly engaged employees who are benefitting from rewarding and fulfilling employee experiences.
DecisionWise has been conducting employee surveys with organizations around the world since 1996. During that time, we have studied over 32 million survey responses to understand what manager behaviors have the greatest influence on employee’s engagement in their work. These behaviors are tied to the five keys that drive engagement, namely: Meaning, Autonomy, Growth, Impact, and Connection (MAGIC). The more employees have positive experience with these five keys, the more likely they are to engage in their work.
Without getting too theoretical, we have distilled the most important manager behaviors for each of these keys. Here are some practical employee engagement ideas that you, as a manager, can use to create experiences that will drive engagement and, ultimately, performance.
“It is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work.”
— Jim Collins
People experience meaning when their work has purpose beyond the tasks or work itself. Generally, people feel a greater sense of meaning when the organization they work for has goals that align with their own personal value systems. Managers help reinforce meaning within their teams by talking frequently about the mission and goals of their organizations, departments, and teams to help employees clearly see how working toward those goals is personally important to them.
Manager Tips to Improve Meaning
Find out what is meaningful to each of your employees and how they experience meaning at work. Encourage them to work on tasks that are meaningful to them.
Frame goals with a sense of meaning and purpose. Explain the “why”.
Share how the organization’s products or services are meaningful to end users and/or the community.
“Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.”
Another employee engagement idea is to establish a sense of autonomy as a critical factor in creating lasting engagement within your team. Different team members require different levels of autonomy. As a manager, you should work with employees on an individual basis to determine how much autonomy you can appropriately offer based upon individual skill level and drive. Most team members respond favorably to being granted autonomy and trust. Conversely, most individuals respond poorly to continual oversight or micromanagement.
Manager Tips to Improve Autonomy
Decide where you can grant more autonomy and offer it. Is there flexibility about how they do their work, when they do it, where they do it, or with whom they work?
Provide clear direction and boundaries so that employees don’t get overwhelmed trying to figure out what you want.
Celebrate success and don’t punish mistakes.
“The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.”
— Harvey S. Firestone, founder of Firestone Tire & Rubber Company
Employees experience growth by being challenged and stretched in ways that lead to personal and professional progress. Growth is a key factor leading to employee engagement and retention. Managers can help their team members by being attentive to their career and development goals. Having regular discussions to plan and check in on career development can be very helpful and motivating to team members.
Manager Tips to Improve Growth
Make sure each employee has an Individual Development Plan (IDP) and review it at least quarterly.
Talk with your employees about their career aspirations.
Regularly coach your employees.
“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”
— Jackie Robinson
People experience a sense of impact when they see the difference their work makes, or when they feel valued for the contribution they make to the organization and its mission. A manager can help team members improve their engagement by showing them how their contributions are integral to the success of the larger team, the organization, and to the organization’s customers, clients, or patients. Taking the time to recognize the efforts and contributions of team members can also help them feel a sense of impact, not to mention a sense of connection and care.
Manager Tips to Improve Impact
Set clear goals and objectives that are challenging with your employees.
Define success and track it.
Regularly Recognize your employees’ contributions.
“Communication—the human connection—is the key to personal and career success.”
— Paul J. Meyer
Of our employee engagement ideas, this is one of the most important. Connection is the sense of belonging a person feels when they are part of an organization or team. Our research data shows that a strong sense of connection is one of the most critical factors in determining the engagement of organizations and individuals. Individuals connect to organizations through social relationships, enjoyable work opportunities and experiences, congruent values, and common purpose.
Manager Tips to Improve Connection
Show that you care about your employees so that they trust you. In the words of Teddy Roosevelt: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable to your team. Let them get to know you personally.
Provide space and activities so that your team can have fun and get to know one another.
As you have probably noticed, these tips appear to be simple and you may be one of those managers that practices them on a regular basis. But based on our survey research, we find that many teams lack managers that are either good at these employee engagement ideas or do them consistently. When was the last time you had a conversation about your employee’s career aspirations? Or do you recognize your employees on a weekly basis?
As you look at this list, consider which of these keys is most important to your engagement and the engagement of each of your employees. We are all unique, so each key will rank differently in importance. As you conduct one-on-ones with team members, ask them about these keys and find out how they play into their engagement. Better yet, have them take our free Engagement MAGIC® Self-assessment and review the results together.
When it comes to leading an organization, 2020 was a year unlike any other. The shifting demands of a global pandemic, mass migrations to remote work, not to mention political and social unrest, all challenged even the strongest of organizations. Critical decisions had to be made almost daily to keep up with new regulations, employee expectations, and harsh new business realities.
So, how did some of the best companies make leadership decisions during these trying times? Increasingly, they looked for support through people analytics.
At its simplest, people analytics involves using data to better understand your workforce and to improve the quality (and speed) of organizational decisions. A strong people analytics strategy organizes and leverages data to reduce uncertainty and help decisionmakers select the best paths forward. The ultimate value from people analytics is when it is used to generate reasonable predictions about the future.
A robust People Analytics program relies on three core elements:
A multi-disciplinary team to lead and manage the process and to oversee the strategy (the “who” and “why” questions);
Constructing and maintaining the technical details of gathering, storing, securing, cleaning, and accessing the data (the “what” and “when” questions);
A well-designed people analytics strategy to analyze and use the data to derive maximum value for the organization (the “how” question).
This article will focus on this third element of “how” to build the right people analytics strategy.
Embracing People Analytics
While the potential benefits of people analytics are numerous, the ultimate value can only be as good as the quality of the data sources used as inputs. The model below outlines the key data categories to be considered when creating a robust people analytics strategy. To unlock powerful predictive insights, a strategy should be built on a solid foundation of employee demographic data, employee experience data, and operational outcome data.
Employee demographic data refers to descriptive information about your employee population. What do you already know? Age, gender, tenure, manager status, educational background, performance ratings, exemption status, etc. Most demographic items are best captured when an employee is first hired and onboarded, though employee profile surveys can also be used to help update and expand demographic fields. The potential fields are virtually limitless.
During 2020, with the growing national conversation on diversity, equity, and inclusion, we saw an increase in organizations capturing ethnicity data and an expansion of gender categories to better support DEI efforts. Robust employee demographic data helps create a broad foundation for deeper analysis when combined with other datasets.
Employee Experience (EX) Data
Employee experience (or EX) data refers to the perceptions, attitudes, and beliefs that an employee forms directly from their experience working for an organization. This data is constantly changing and requires a measurement strategy that captures perceptions frequently and appropriately across the employee lifecycle.
DecisionWise helps collect EX data via employee lifecycle surveys, annual anchor surveys (engagement surveys), anniversary surveys, and 360 feedback assessments. EX data helps an organization understand the experience they are creating for employees across a myriad of planned and unplanned moments.
This category includes anything that is tracked as part of your organization’s operational metrics. This includes traditional HR operational data such as attrition numbers, as well as non-HR data like sales or production metrics. Often these outcome items are the areas that you will be using people analytics to solve for later.
Interestingly, outcome data is often a limiting factor in a people analytics strategy. Why? Because human resource teams frequently do not have access to (or do not seek out) data sets outside of HR. I have worked with hundreds of HR teams over the last ten years and I am continually surprised how many organizations keep their “HR data” and their “operational data” in separate silos. This is why we strongly encourage HR leaders to help build a multi-disciplinary team to work on their people analytics initiatives. All outcome metrics (and corresponding human custodians) should be sought out as potential inputs for people analytics and the team.
Insights & Predictions
The ultimate goal of a people analytics strategy is to unlock insights and predictions that are useful to the organization. These insights are derived by combining and analyzing an organization’s demographic, EX, and outcome data. Some insights may become apparent simply by slicing EX data by a few demographics. For example, an engagement survey with demographic detail might reveal that female managers in a company’s Northeast region are feeling overworked. Other insights and predictions may require advanced statistical analysis to reveal. For example, correlating the impact manager 1:1’s is having on customer churn, or how a training program is impacting clinical outcomes within a healthcare organization.
In many ways, the Human Resources function is still seeking to find its strategic voice within the organization. A strong people analytics strategy that leverages robust demographic, EX, and outcome data not only gives HR the tools to create a world class experience for employees, it also provides the insights and predictions to help HR inform business outcomes throughout the organization. The case is becoming increasingly strong for companies to organize and analyze their data to increase their understanding, to make data-driven decisions, and to leverage people analytics to improve the quality of their thinking.
What is employee engagement? And why are there so many different ways of defining employee engagement? Organizations around the globe are striving to build a culture of engagement , yet the various definitions often cloud their efforts.
Rewards and recognition, learning and development, health and fitness, perks and benefits are all categories that commonly use employee engagement to describe their initiatives.
First, it’s important to identify what employee engagement is not. Sometimes any type of positive employee attitude or behavior is considered employee engagement, while anything contrary is considered a disengaged employee. However, it’s not always that black and white. For example, employee engagement is not employee happiness, satisfaction, motivation, or empowerment. Now that we have a good understanding of what employee engagement isn’t, let’s take a look at some different ways people have gone about defining employee engagement.
Defining Employee Engagement
If you search for “employee engagement definition,” you’ll come up with a seemingly unending list of definitions from consultants to multinational corporate conglomerates—and everyone in between. Here’s a selection of some of the best (or most curious) employee engagement definitions we’ve seen:
“Emotional connection an employee feels toward his or her employment organization, which tends to influence his or her behaviors and level of effort in work-related activities.” Business Dictionary
“A business management concept that describes the level of enthusiasm and dedication a worker feels toward his/her job. Engaged employees care about their work and about the performance of the company, and feel that their efforts make a difference.” Investopedia
” Employee engagement is the emotional attachment employees feel towards their place of work, job role, position within the company, colleagues and culture and the effect this attachment has on wellbeing and productivity. ” HR ZONE
“An emergent and working condition as a positive cognitive, emotional, and behavioral state directed toward organizational outcomes.” Michael Shuck and Karen Wallard
Defining Employee Engagement – How Do We Do It?
DecisionWise defines employee engagement as an emotional state where we feel passionate, energetic, and committed toward our work. In turn, we fully invest our best selves-our hearts, spirits, minds, and hands-in the work we do.
When you see engagement, you know it. However, it is often hard to put into words. For example, in 2001 Douglas Conant took over as CEO of Campbell’s Soup and called it a “bad” company. Its products were bleeding market share, and research showed that 62 percent of the company’s managers did not consider themselves actively engaged in their jobs. Yet by 2009, 68 percent of the company’s employees said they were actively engaged, while just 3 percent considered themselves actively disengaged.
How did Conant do it? He made a commitment to his people, embodied in the phrase “Campbell valuing people, people valuing Campbell.” Conant improved the physical surroundings by removing the barbed wire fence around the offices and focused on improving manager communication. Conant also instituted programs to celebrate individual success, from sending them personal thank-you notes to having lunch with employees.
Campbell’s built a culture of employee engagement. This resulted in an engaged workforce. It had nothing to do with air-hockey tables in the break rooms or on-site clinics. People engage with people, and they give more when they feel heard, empowered, and appreciated.
How the Psychological Contract Between the Employee and the Company Defines Engagement
The Psychological Contract has the greatest potential influence on employee engagement and as a result, the overall employee experience. Hidden in our hearts are the ideas, hopes, and dreams that truly define us. These expectations cannot be addressed adequately by clauses in an employment contract or hiring slogans that attempt to align expectations. These expectations are part of the psychological contract. The Psychological Contract is the unwritten, implicit set of expectations and obligations that define the terms of exchange in a relationship.
What’s Different Between a Satisfied and an Engaged Employee?
Many leaders mistakenly think that increasing employee satisfaction will increase employee engagement and motivation. Satisfaction is transactional and contractual. In return for their work, you promise to provide employees with the basics: compensations, tools, and resources, physical safety, dignity, and respect. Both the organization and the employee must continue to make constant deposits in the relationship “bank account.”
Satisfied employees put out as much effort as they are compensated for, and no more. They deliver what is asked of them, as long as you deliver on your part of the deal. They show up and do their work, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to say no to other offers. A satisfied employee does not equal workforce engagement.
Changing Our Minds About Engagement
When it comes to the all-important bottom line, employee engagement (not job satisfaction or employee happiness) matters. This is why it’s so important to get employee feedback on their engagement levels by conducting an employee engagement survey. These survey results provide you with engagement scores that give you a better idea of where your workplace falls under the employee engagement spectrum. Ultimately this will allow you to create an employee engagement strategy to improve your work engagement.
It’s a powerful engine for not only improving your company culture but for growth and profit. When defining employee engagement, it is important to recognize that it is a 50/50 proposition with the responsibility to become engaged between the employee and the responsibility to create an engaging environment on the organization. Employee engagement is creating a workplace culture where both the organization and the employees become engaged.
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.
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?
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 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.
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.