Archive for Employee Recognition

Employee Engagement in 6 Words

[tweetmeme]You wouldn’t think you could define employee engagement in 6 words, but the Employee Engagement Network did its best in an eBook by that name that’s just been published.   You can download it by going to the group’s site.

The idea came from the memorable 6-word story written by Ernest Hemingway: For sale: baby shoes, never worn. Those 6 words packed a real wallop — what was the back story; why weren’t they ever worn?

Employee Engagement Network members were asked for their definitions and over 120 members responded with their 6 words.  Of course, I contributed.  There were many really great definitions and I couldn’t list them all here.  But these are 25 that I found memorable:

v Treat people like people, not subjects.

v Engaged employees aren’t recruited, they’re created.

v Your individual genius helps us excel.

v I value your contribution, every day!

v Trust and empowerment creates engaged colleagues.

v Together we can change the world.

v Education + entitlement + enablement equals real engagement!

v Bring out the best in people!

v Opportunity: Customer available – engaged applicants preferred.

v I truly want to be here.

v Respect diversity. Foster collaboration. Honour commitments.

v Why engage employees? To engage customers.

v What legacy shall we create together?

v Feeling respected and connected. Great workplace!

v Potential is limitless when people care.

v Engagement begins with the employee experience.

v Give employees clear goals to accomplish.

v Determine and communicate outcomes, then empower.

v Organization success: it’s the people, stupid!

v Value your people. Reap the rewards.

v Adding value, being valued. That’s it!

v I asked, you suggested, we conquered.

v Can I help you to improve?

v Purpose, partnership, passion; in that order.

Now, dear readers, I invite you to comment with your 6 words that define employee engagement.

Feeling Safe: A Good Boss Watches Your Back

[tweetmeme]A couple of recent studies confirm that one of our most primal needs is safety.  We want to feel safe – at home, in our city’s streets and especially at the office.  Reuters came out with a report today that ranked cities on how safe they are for children.  I’m proud to say that my hometown, New York City, ranked first along with Louisville.

"Feeling safe -- he's got their backs"

Feeling safe -- he's got their backs

Another study by McKinsey this past summer discussed the importance of a boss making his employees feel psychologically safe by watching their backs.  This intrigued me because feeling safe isn’t usually found on the wish list of employees.  A good salary, a secure job (maybe that does equate with safety), meaningful work and a sense of community usually rank high.

So why is it important for a boss to “watch your back” and provide psychological safety?   According to the McKinsey study, “Why good bosses tune in to their people, “Good bosses spark imagination and encourage learning by creating a safety zone where people can talk about half-baked ideas, test them, and even make big mistakes without fear of ridicule, punishment, or ostracism.”

An Absence of Safety Can be Deadly

An absence of psychological safety, in concert with fear of the boss, can be dangerous or downright deadly….one study showed that when pilots faked mild incapacitation toward the end of a rough and rainy simulated flight, their copilots failed to take the controls 25 percent of the time—resulting in simulated crashes.

To lock in your team’s loyalty, boldly defend their backs, says the study’s author Stanford management professor Bob Sutton.

Fear Stifles Creativity and Productivity

Who wants to take a chance and suggest a new way of doing something and risk the wrath of the boss?  Says Sutton, “The best bosses invent, borrow, and implement ways to reduce the mental and emotional load heaped on their followers — followers who enjoy such protection have the freedom to take risks and try new things.”

Fear can be a motivator – of the wrong kind of behavior.  A fearful employee keeps his head down, does what he’s told and expected to do but rarely ventures out on the edge of the board.  I once worked for a CEO who screamed and tossed ashtrays.  He even resented the clack of his secretary’s fingers on the keyboard.  Do you think anyone voluntarily went to his office with a new idea?  Not on your life.

White Castle Boss Goes Undercover and Learns Employee Engagement Works

[tweetmeme]I was finally persuaded by a friend to watch the new hit show “Undercover Boss.”  This reality show confirmed that a CEO can learn a lot about how to make the company better by engaging with employees. For those who haven’t seen the new show on CBS, a CEO goes undercover as an employee in his own company to see for himself how things are working.  Dave Rife, owner of the White Castle hamburger chain, was this past Sunday’s undercover snoop.

Praise for a job well done

When he started his adventure, I don’t think he fully understood how stressful the job of a White Castle employee can be, with the fear of losing a job always in the background when you have a disabled child, as one employee did, or another’s fear of simply messing up.

How Do I Do This?

Mr. Big Shot discovered that he couldn’t do simple chores like sliding plastic wrap over a batch of buns in the packaging machine.  He ruined several barrels’ worth, prompting a supervisor to say the hogs (who get to enjoy the mangled buns) would be eating well that night.

What he learned best, though, was how important employees are to the success of the company.  At a White Castle drive-in a young co-worker explained to him about the importance of greeting each customer and going out of your way to help with little things, like sliding the customer’s credit card in a hard-to-reach slot.  In watching this scene, I was almost brought to tears by the young man’s sincerity and dedication.  So was Dan Rife.

Another employee showed him a shortcut, but told him not to tell management, because that’s not how they said it was supposed to be done.

After his eye-opening week on the road, working besides his employees, Rife returned to headquarters wiser and more appreciative of what it means to be on the front lines.

Magically, he brought several employees to headquarters to assist with developing training programs – hey, they should.  Aren’t they the ones who know what the problems are and how to fix them?  He gave a $5,000 scholarship to a budding chef, and another $5,000 to the employee with a disabled child.

The program ended with Rife speaking to a pep rally of employees, beaming with the joy of being acknowledged by the head of the company. Happy with the recognition that they were asked to work as a team to achieve the company’s success.

Where Did the Employees Go?

The 2008 corporate annual reports have rolled off the presses and are on view on company websites.   I flipped through some of them online and, as usual, they are the same old dullards.  A letter from the president, a few words about the past year and what the future holds, followed by the financial results.

But you know what?  Several of the very largest Fortune 500 companies had not a single photo or story about an employee.  None. Aren’t employees the ones who make the company successful?  Where did they go?  It is a little shocking to think that they merit so little recognition.  Granted many companies have had layoffs.  Maybe they think that if they don’t highlight the employees who are left people will forget about the ones who are gone.  Or maybe it’s something else.

In a recent column, David Brooks, an op-ed writer for The New York Times cited a study “Which C.E.O. Characteristics and Abilities Matter,” by Steven Kaplan, Mark Klebanov and Morten Sorensen.  What they learned, says Brooks, is that “strong people skills…and being a great communicator…correlate loosely or not at all with being a good C.E.O….what mattered were execution and organizational skills.”  Their findings apparently were consistent with other research on the subject of successful C.E.O.’s.

Maybe that’s why employees are so little recognized in the most successful companies.  The C.E.O.’s need to be a good communicator isn’t as important as sweating the small stuff, like being attentive to detail.  OK, not all C.E.O.s think team building and communications with employees are unimportant.

But it does make one pause and wonder if companies just don’t value their employees as much as in the old cradle-to-grave days when an employee lived out his entire work life with one company.  Maybe employees are fungible.  That’s it.  Employees come.  Employees go.  Welcome to the new world.