Today's post comes to us from board member, China Gorman.  

I've been thinking and speaking about organization culture for a long time. If you look at the longitudinal data collected by Gallup (whether or not you agree with their definition of engagement), it's easy to see that despite billions and billions of dollars invested in improving engagement, the needle isn't moving at all.

So, I've come to the conclusion that “engagement” is a red herring.

Engagement is short-hand for a great corporate culture that attracts and retains the exact right talent that is needed to acquire, serve, and retain the desired customer set. Engagement is created by leadership behaviors and practices - some unique, some not - that make up the foundation of your organization's culture and the heart of the relationships you have with your talent. It really isn't a thing unto itself.

Let me give you an example. No matter how many wonderful services and perks you offer your employees at their worksite or office (think any Silicon Valley employer), if your leadership isn't trustworthy and believable, there's no way a majority of your employees will be engaged enough to make a long-term commitment to stay. Perks do not create engagement. Truth telling and trust create engagement.

Traditional top-down, hierarchical organization dynamics are blockages to engagement. Leaders who are not personal and approachable create impersonal and, in some cases, fear-based environments. Employees need to feel personally recognized by their bosses and by the organization's leadership. Recognized as real people, not just skill sets. Approachable and personable leaders create engagement.

If employees don't understand why what they do has meaning to the end user (internal or external), they'll look for other organizations that will help them feel connected to the work and to the mission in a way that gives definition to their lives. When employees feel connected to the outcomes of their work and the work of the organization, they feel engaged in the mission. But supervisors and managers have to help employees make those connections. Meaning creates engagement.

Some organizations believe that engagement is all about the money. There are a great many organizations with truly horrible, demeaning cultures that have to overpay their employees in order to attract them. Hazard pay, I believe it's called. But the second another employer that treats employees like living, breathing human beings makes an approach - even with less money but more respect - they're gone in a heartbeat. Loyalty works both ways and organizations known for being fair - in all things, including compensation - win the talent attraction and retention game nearly every time. Compensation fairness creates engagement.

These are just four components - of many - that create an engaged workforce. There's no single silver bullet. Engagement is not just one thing. It's the outcome of many things - beginning with consistent, fair leadership behavior that values human beings.

So maybe the goal isn't engagement, after all. Maybe the goal should be fair, trustworthy, meaning-focused leadership. Until that is achieved, employee engagement is not possible.

Today's post comes to us courtesy of board member John Frehse, senior managing director at Ankura Consulting Group.

If you ask any Human Resources professional what they pay their employees, they will respond with a dollar amount. If you ask them how they compensate their employees, they may also include things like medical benefits and paid time off. While salary figures and standard benefits are indeed critical components of compensation, it is important to understand that many other currencies are not only accepted by today's workforce, they are demanded.

“Currencies” are varied and certainly not just limited to financial reward.

A few examples:

  1. Investments in training: Very simply - does your company invest in its people?
  2. Visibility: Do employees have visibility into performance, productivity, and what is required of them? Can they see fellow employees' availability to gain flexibility by swapping shifts and requesting time off?
  3. Structured mentoring: Companies often like to talk about mentoring, but does it really take place? Without a proper structure where employees are matched with appropriate leaders, mentoring becomes a “nice to have” but not an actual program.
  4. Public recognition for performance: Are employees who go above-and-beyond required performance and provide discretionary effort publicly recognized for their contributions?
  5. Leadership-enabled Success: Do leaders and administrative tasks slow down or block success? Are employees discouraged from making improvements because “management will never support it?”
  6. Merit-based promotions: How often is your firm looking outside of the company to find leaders? If this is common, dedicated employees are being passed over for outsiders and this can crush morale.

Frankly, when discussing culture and employee engagement as a byproduct, money is rarely the key driver. It's other “softer” currencies - like the ones above - that drive positive behaviors, and therefore results.

When a wide range of currencies is not available to the workforce, the demand for cash goes up. In an environment with little or no chance of advancement, recognition, or mentoring, employees will demand larger amounts of the only currency available. And when cash becomes the single driver, morale and performance are traditionally very low. The more employees are starved of a wide range of currencies, the more financial compensation is needed to satisfy them, and this does not translate into better performance.

So, what currency is most important to you as an employee? How well - or poorly - does your organization score when it comes to providing compensation beyond just salary and benefits? Tell me in the comments!

Today's post comes to us from board member Sharlyn Lauby. a.k.a., The HR Bartender and president of ITM Group, Inc., a training company focused on developing programs to retain and engage talent in the workplace


Self-care is any activity we deliberately do in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. In theory, when we say that we “take care of ourselves”, we're practicing self-care. The challenge with self-care is identifying the best ways to care for ourselves.

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “What does this have to do with employees?” The answer is … a lot.

It's hard for employees to be engaged if they're not healthy. It's difficult for employees to be productive if they're not healthy. Disengaged and unproductive employees impact the bottom-line.

Even if the company doesn't have a formal wellness or well-being program, it makes sense for employers to support the idea of self-care. Here are a few things companies can do to support employee self-care without spending extra money or creating a program.

  1. Make ergonomics a priority. Whether you have an open concept office or not, employees need to have office space with good lighting, chairs that provide good posture, and a quiet space to concentrate.
  2. Create “stop doing” goals. Often, when we talk about goals, it's in the context of the things we plan “to do”. Instead of always doing more, what if every employee had to set one goal of something they wanted to “stop doing”? It might be very helpful in changing attitude and behavior.
  3. Encourage use of health insurance wellness benefits. Most health insurance plans offer a set of preventative services like physicals, shots and vaccinations, and screening tests. Make sure employees know the preventative health services available to them.
  4. Plan healthier company-sponsored meals. I love pizza and doughnuts at employee meetings as much as the next person. But an occasional salad would send a better nutritional message. If companies want to encourage healthy eating, then they should offer healthy options.
  5. Promote sleep. According to the American Sleep Association, approximately 50-70 million U.S. adults have a sleep disorder. Lack of sleep has been attributed to driving accidents, obesity, and unethical conduct.
  6. Offer stress and time management courses. Schedule a lunch and learn session. Arianna Huffington's Thrive Program is available on LinkedIn Learning. SkillShare has a class on how to “Create a Perfect Morning Routine” that can be accessed from Facebook.
  7. Practice mindfulness. Harvard Business Review published an article earlier this year titled “Spending 10 Minutes a Day on Mindfulness Subtly Changes the Way You React to Everything”. Giving employees 10 minutes could yield big results - for them and for the company.
  8. Recognize employees for their work and accomplishments. In general, people like to know what they do well. It's comforting and affirming. Managers have the ability to lift the confidence of employees by giving them recognition in a way that means something.
  9. Have “walking” meetings. We've heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking”. Instead of having a conversation with a colleague in a conference room, the new trend is to talk while walking. It makes the meeting go faster and you get in a little exercise.
  10. Provide flexible work schedules. Employees want to know they have control over their careers, and that includes their schedules. When emergencies occur, they want to know that the company can empathize. Giving employees flexibility helps them manage their lives.

Oh, and here's one more. Number 11 - demonstrate effective use of technology. It might be tempting to say that tech is the reason more people can't focus on self-care. But that's not necessarily true. There are many apps on the market that can make self-care fun and effective. Organizations need to set realistic expectations where technology is concerned. Managers should role model the tech etiquette they want to see from others.

Companies looking to improve engagement and retention need to examine the ways they support employee self-care. And employees need opportunities to relax and recharge in order to do their best work.

Today's topic is team building.  I received a guest post from Isabelle Riley, a writer in Australia.  Her guest post is about things employers can do to boost employee morale, including the use of team building events like those provided by her organization, Out of the Square. I've hosted and participated in a number of team building events over the years, as many of you have, no doubt.  I'm curious, what do you think about company hosted team building events?

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Guest Post from Isabelle Riley:

There are many things you can do to increase morale in the office. The first step is to realize that it begins with the employer. To recognize the value of your employees is key. Many business have the attitude that employees are a 'dime a dozen'. If one leaves, another can be found to take their place without much trouble on their part. While this may be true to some extent, the cost of advertising, interviewing and training the new employee can be prohibitive. It is important to let your employees know that they are appreciated by simply stating a few words of thanks or admiration for a good job. Let your employees take ownership over their own work, they should be able to define their own work so they feel a sense of achievement. Career training can be a motivator. The more you support your employees, the more likely it is they will remain loyal and work hard to increase the value of your business. Involve them in large projects that help them increase their skills. Provide honest and constructive feedback on their work, and remember to always be encouraging.

Consider providing your employees with perks such as casual friday, free lunches, cash bonuses or even gift certificates to award great work. You could even sponsor social events for your employees such as a bbq or office picnic. In addition to this style of socializing, you could also consider some team building exercises that encourage employees to work together and support each other. There a variety of business that provide team building events for your workplace, such as Out Of The Square.

The work environment can greatly affect the morale of your employees, avoid a productivity drain. Make your office look like a place where people want to be, add colour and plants or nice artwork. In the case of a factory environment, make sure that the break room is a relaxing and inviting space for employees to rest.

Most importantly, encourage communication between employees, emphasize the importance of an open dialogue. Don't be afraid to remove your business from the dreary cubicle-style office of the past. Move forward and make your workplace an enjoyable place to be, a place that reflects values that the employees can agree with.

What's the best team building event you've attended?

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