Want to Strengthen eNPS? Give Employees a Voice and a Future

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.

leader increases eNPS by showing his team he cares

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.

woman feels she has a future with her company

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.

3 Crucial Elements That Drive Employee Success

Training Female Smiling

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:

1. Culture

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.

Employee engagement is grown and cultivated

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. 


5 Employee Engagement Ideas to Motivate Your Team

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.”

Daniel Pink

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.

Employee Engagement online learning course

People Analytics Strategy: Building the Right Foundation

Engaged Team

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:

  1. A multi-disciplinary team to lead and manage the process and to oversee the strategy (the “who” and “why” questions);
  2. Constructing and maintaining the technical details of gathering, storing, securing, cleaning, and accessing the data (the “what” and “when” questions);
  3. 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.

Demographic 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.

Outcome Data

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.

Leadership workshop in the office

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.

7 Ways of Defining Employee Engagement

definitions of employee engagement

What is employee engagement? And why are there so many employee engagement definitions? 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.

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:

  1. “The emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.” Kevin Kruse, Forbes Contributor and NY Times Best Selling Author
  2. “The art of getting people to believe what you want them to believe.” Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Red Hat
  3. “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
  4. “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
  5. ” 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
  6. “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.

Busy office setting with employees at computers

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. 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 will 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.

Changing Our Minds About Engagement

When it comes to the all-important bottom line, employee engagement (not satisfaction or happiness) matters. It’s a powerful engine 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 on the employee and the responsibility to create an engaging environment on the organization. Employee engagement can be defined as creating a culture where both the organization and the employees become engaged.

Employee Engagement Survey

Podcast: Managing the Employee Experience While Returning to Work

While many companies are ready to send people back to work, some leaders may feel a little unsure about resuming “business as usual,” or even the “new normal.”

How will employees view your back-to-work strategy? Will they come back engaged? Will you need to revisit certain aspects of your culture?

Today’s Engaging People Podcast episode will help you ease back into a more familiar work situation with confidence.

Listen to learn more about core employee experience principles, identify key return-to-work goals, and explore new tools and resources.

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

3 Reasons We Care About The Employee Experience in 2020

Employees happily working

The Employee Experience

Why should we care about the employee experience? Most leaders are beginning their strategic plans for 2020. As you work on ways to improve for the coming year, one key area to consider is your employee experience. Is it in good shape? Could it use some tweaking? Is it aligned with your business objectives for 2020 and beyond?

Read the Book: The Employee Experience: How to Attract Talent, Retain Top Performers, and Drive Results

The Employee Experience (EX) is the human ecosystem in which your employees operate, carry on their work, contribute, innovate, and produce results. The challenge for business leaders, however, is that the employee experience is not a framework of easily understood inputs and outputs.

Instead, the employee experience is constructed from the various relationships between people within your organization and their perceptions about those relationships. In the case of the employee experience, perception truly is reality. It is more concerned with matters of the heart than flowcharts and diagrams.

As you reflect on how well your employee experience is aligned with your strategic objectives for 2020, I would suggest that you take the time to examine three “Ps” which are found in every business or organization. They are:

  1. People
  2. Product
  3. Process

We have found this model (the “Three P Model”) to be useful for a variety of reasons. It should also be noted that the order is intentional.

Employees happily working

1. People Come First

The most important asset in your organization is your people. Your organization is not a living, breathing object capable of action on its own.

Rather, your organization is a collection of people who have come together for a common purpose. The only way for your organization to actually do something is for a person, or a group of people, to take an action. Thus, it’s axiomatic that without your people, nothing happens. Thus, your people should be your first priority.

If you want 2020 to be better than 2019, you need your people to perform better than they did last year. And, for many organizations, labor is their largest expense item. So, everyone, including the buttoned-up finance department, has an interest in ensuring that your organization’s people are operating at peak efficiency and that your employee experience has been designed to get the very best results from your talent.

It’s a Leadership Job

Ways to improve your people include everything from providing development opportunities to attracting the right candidates. It also includes leaders who take the time to align their vision with what they expect from those who will put that vision into place. The task of building the right EX is critical, and cannot be handed off to an HR function that has been relegated to the basement in the company’s headquarters.

An organization’s employee experience is primarily the C-suite’s responsibility. A division’s employee experience belongs to the division leader. This concept is repeated all the way to the team leader who is the steward over her team’s employee experience. The HR department is there to support and provide counsel along the way, but as a resource and not as the function primarily in charge of the organization’s EX.

Woman buying grapes

2. Employee Experience = Customer Experience

The second component in the Three P Model is your product (or whatever good or service you sell in the marketplace). Some might question why this item has been listed second as opposed to first in our methodology. This argument makes some sense, right? If your product is substandard, it doesn’t matter how well your people are functioning. Wrong! Our database of over 50 million employee survey responses suggests two key principles that run counter to this conventional wisdom.

  • First, the data suggests that you build a world-class customer experience by creating a stellar employee experience. Stated differently, your customer’s experience is directly related to how well your employee experience is working. We are so firm in our view on this issue that we have called it a law – the Law of Congruent Experience.
    Your employees will deliver a customer experience that is directly proportional to their own employee experience (EX = CX).
  • Second, when your employee experience has been well-designed and is thriving, the reality of a substandard product or service does not exist. Our data shows that engaged and motivated employees simply will not allow your company to sell or produce something that is unreliable or incapable of being sold. Even if this principle doesn’t hold true in all cases, our experience suggests that an average product in the hands of a great customer experience/employee experience is more likely to succeed than a fantastic product that is packaged and sold within a lousy customer experience/employee experience.
Listen to Podcasts with the Authors of The Employee Experience Book
Employee using company software

3. Your Employees Know

The third “P” in our model is your business processes. As you contemplate how you might improve your processes, we urge you not to overlook one of the most important sources of data and insights: your front-line employees.

These employees often know your customers better than anyone within your organization, and they are most likely to know how your customers actually use your product, which can be invaluable information. And finally, apart from getting meaningful and actionable intelligence, our data shows that by asking your employees what they think you will improve employee engagement, create a culture of feedback, and improve your EX.

Chicago Transit

Chicago Transit Authority

Consider a case study from 2013 involving the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA). The CTA decided to spend nearly $500 million to transition its riders from a proprietary fare system to a third-party system called “Ventra.” As is commonly the case, the concept was simple: Improve the process of collecting transit fares from the riders. The implementation, however, proved to be problematic.

One reason for the breakdown was that system designers failed to talk with CTA employees. For example, an early malfunction was that the new system charged passengers twice. Passengers were charged once when they entered the bus in the front and their Ventra card was scanned by an electronic reader. Then, these same riders were charged again when, as is often the case in a busy city like Chicago, they exited the bus through the front as opposed to leaving from the rear door. Had those in charge spent time talking to CTA bus drivers, they would have easily appreciated the likelihood of this scenario and proactively worked on a solution prior to system implementation.

Of course, there are several more factors to consider beyond the three “Ps.” Yet, there is some merit to the Three P Model’s simplicity in that it reduces distractions by focusing on the most important keys to business success. Plus, in focusing on the three “Ps,” leaders will be able to consider how they might improve their employee experience within each area. With today’s changing workforce, the employee experience simply cannot be ignored and must become a critical part of business processes throughout every organization.

Get the book, The Employee Experience

How to Get Your Company’s Leadership to Listen

Leaders listening

It may, at times, feel difficult to get your company’s leadership to listen. Sometimes problems exist with colleagues. Members of your team may not respond to e-mails or avoid speaking face to face. Other communication struggles surface when you need to tell your manager about a problem you are encountering. But maybe they don’t make time for one-on-ones, or perhaps they need a little coaching on how to effectively listen.

And then there’s that feeling that the organization as a whole isn’t listening. Many companies try to fix their communication struggles by first soliciting feedback. We applaud them for taking the time to run an employee engagement survey. But, how do they show you they will listen to and act on your feedback? And what if they do nothing? Will you wait for them to make changes while your engagement wanes? You could absolutely wait and feel justified, because your organization is letting you down. But does a thought like this serve you?

In a previous blog, our DecisionWise consultants discussed the organization’s part in the issue of employee voice. Towards the end of the conversation, we asked them to share some observations that might empower you in this tough situation. In response, they shared some things we could keep in mind when we feel like no one is listening.

Avoid the Trap of “Learned Helplessness”

Principal Consultant, Dan Hoopes asserts that we should first identify if we have developed a victim mentality. He mentions the work of Martin Seligman and his research on “learned helplessness.” This video explains a study Seligman conducted. You may see from the questions at the end how “learned helplessness,” might be holding you back.

“Learned helplessness” is a trap we fall into all too often. If I’m not getting the information or feedback that I need, I should go and ask. I Appreciate when people ask for clarification. So, when we think of engagement as a 50/50 proposition, I think the same thing happens with communication. You can’t wait to be acted upon. Learned helplessness is, “They didn’t tell me that.”  

Know When and How to Bring up Your Ideas

Learning to navigate company culture can be a little bit tricky. Sometimes, employees just need a mentor to coach them through pitching their ideas. Senior Consultant, Charles Rogel shared some thoughts on how new employees might find more success in this area.

And so you need to be strategic in terms of your suggestions, ideas, and things that you really want to change.

“I’ve seen new, enthusiastic employees come up with 20 different ideas to improve the organization within their first week. And they come with, “At my last organization, we…” In this case, the new employees come off too strongly, with too many suggestions. Your company’s leadership is less likely to listen if you add too much noise, and too many things to consider. They should instead think about their top ideas and suggestions, and look for the best opportunity to share those. Are you suggesting something as a special project that you want to take on as one of your development goals? Are you trying to enact change in a more strategic way? Realize that change takes time in any organization. People may not listen to all of your suggestions, but be patient, deliberate, and keep trying.”

VP of Consulting Services, Christian Nielson adds an often overlooked point. Tenured employees may know that the company has come a long way in addressing certain issues. As a new employee, you are unfamiliar with the journey that employees have taken in the organization. People may have tried your solutions but found they didn’t work for whatever reason. And so, Christian cautions us with this.

“When you are new to an organization, you must be sensitive enough to honor the past and understand that you might lack certain information. But with that in mind, press forward and try. One of my favorite definitions of employee engagement is, “When we’re engaged, we feel empowered to bring more of our best self to work.” We should search for a way to be our authentic self and to incorporate more of that into our work.”

Can You Help Your Company’s Leadership Listen to You?

Sometimes, just tweaking the way we approach people with our ideas can offer very different results. Christian offers this tip that he learned from business educator, Marshall Goldsmith.

When you ask someone for help it does this interesting psychological thing where they join your side.

“Goldsmith has this great idea about asking for help and what it does if you have a manager that’s not supportive when you bring up ideas. Ask them for help saying, “I have this idea, can you help me figure out a way to implement this on a trial basis, further explore this, or do a test of this idea.” When you ask someone for help, it does this interesting psychological thing where they join your side. Now, this isn’t foolproof, but it can at least soften some of the existing barriers.”

Principal Consultant, Beth Wilkins then helped us with one more tweak as she put us into the minds of managers. Beth shares how many managers feel and how it affects their ability to listen and act on employee concerns.

“As a manager, I experienced employees telling me about all of their problems, and it became very heavy. I began to brace myself for a laundry list of problems in one-on-ones. I paid close attention when people had a solution attached to the problem. In consideration of managers, I would recommend that employees think, “what kinds of things can I suggest that would make my manager’s or executives’ lives easier?” rather than just reporting the problem.”


You may have stopped talking because getting your company’s leadership to listen seemed hopeless. If you’ve had some time to heal, look back at those people and situations. Were these people possibly having a bad day or in a hurry? Could you try a different approach and revisit your questions or concerns? Then, think about new ideas or concern you have. Make a plan to share those things with these new suggestions in mind.

  • Find the right person to approach
  • Consider your timing
  • Talk to them when they can give you their full attention
  • Come with possible solutions
  • Communicate that you would like their help and feedback

We hope these tips will help you put some of these situations back in your realm of control. If they don’t, be proud that you tried! At that point, you may have to re-evaluate how your organization’s listening skills contribute to your overall employee engagement and whether or not you should seek other opportunities.