Engaging your people is not that hard.

As a CEO, entrepreneur and business advisor I understand how critical employee engagement is to developing and sustaining a great culture. Great culture is a huge competitive advantage with benefits flowing from low turnover, higher productivity and levels of innovation. 

Engagement is not complex. People engagement stems from the most basic elements of human needs and behaviour. I think businesses should start with the basics and measure the results. 

These are 8 actions you can take without spending money to improve your people engagement.

8 Actions You Can Do Now to Boost Engagement in Your Business

  1. Write accurate position descriptions for every role in your business. People need to know the parameters of their work and the expectations for the position they hold. 
  2. Implement a three phase performance review process. I usually start at a three phase process but ideally it is more frequent. The first phase is goal setting. The second phase is a progress review and course correction as needed. The third session is a performance review that is used to plan development, succession, remuneration etc. 
  3. Cascade your strategy by scheduling weekly team meetings between managers and their teams. The purpose of these meetings is to track tasks and activity aligned with the strategic goals of the business. We use a set agenda for these meetings and they are of enormous value in keeping a business on track to achieve its strategy. 
  4. The business owner or CEO must be visible to the people in the business. This means the CEO is accessible informally as well as formally. You can learn a great deal about a company culture by the body language of employees when the CEO is nearby. 
  5. The business owner or CEO must use a channel of communication that keeps all people up to date with what is going on in the business and in the market they operate in. Some of my clients use newsletters or simple emails. I prefer a video that can be delivered from the company intranet or via Vimeo or YouTube.  
  6. People must have access to learning opportunities. Many firms have adopted learning management system to offer online learning for both professional and personal development. Some of my clients have created some very engaging learning using iPhone video, screen recording and other low cost tools. They deliver this video based learning on YouTube or Vimeo. You should at least have a process to encourage people to request training and demonstrate your commitment to training by allocating a budget for this purpose.
  7. Coaching and mentoring will do so much to ensure you do not lose valuable knowledge when people leave your business. Most people really enjoy the opportunity to coach and mentor other people. You must ensure there is a purpose and a pathway for the coaching and mentoring to avoid the program going off the rails. 
  8. Celebrate! Celebration is a social activity that is one of the easiest ways to build relationship bonds between people. I always recommend that no birthday goes un-celebrated. You can celebrate new sales, achievement of goals, personal milestones etc. You can also include social functions around the holidays such as Christmas. One of my personal favourites is including your key customers in some celebrations. What better way to forge strong bonds of engagement between your people and the people they serve. 

The 8 actions above should be done regardless of whether you see signs of deteriorating engagement in your business. If you are aware of the need to improve people engagement it may be time to get some help.  Let’s face it:  it always helps having another person to give you perspective and honest feedback.  You need to get some advice from a person who can bring ‘fresh thinking’ to your business and get your people engaged and performing at their peak. 

Do you need a trusted business advisor, someone who can help you see your business and goals through ‘fresh eyes’?  Contact me and I will work with you to look at where you want to go and help you find the best way to get there.

The CEO is stuck. Which way out?

Feeling stuck. Feeling tired at the end of the day. Feeling frustrated more easily and more often. This is how one of my new clients described her personal situation during our first project meeting. This CEO was stuck and could not get enough head space to find a way out of it.

I was hired to help her develop business development processes and build a sales team. There is no point trying to build business development processes when the CEO is not performing at a high level.

As the business grew during late 2016 and into 2017 the business became more complicated. Clients were asking for changes to the standard contracts. The person she recruited for a customer service role needed more time to become effective than anticipated. The salesperson was performance was mediocre at best with low levels of prospecting activity and demanding more time from the CEO to create proposals and close deals.

My client is naturally a person who is very strategic, goal focused, makes fast decisions and may appear a bit brash and aloof to other people. She thrived as an entrepreneur focused on strategy and growth. Now she was withering.

Conduct a personal audit of your daily activities. I suggest using your calendar software and applying categories and/or colours to denote different activity types. You may need to change your current calendar set up to conduct your audit. I would recommend a minimum of one month to conduct your audit.

My client and I worked out the following categories for her audit. She uses Outlook so these categories were created and colour coded.

·        Sales activity

·        Existing customers and responding to requests

·        Internal meetings

·        Contracts and negotiation

·        Networking

·        Marketing

·        Business Admin

The month long audit delivered some staggering insights.

My client was getting more involved in work that demanded attention to detail, meetings and adherence to processes.  She was being forced to move away from her natural behavioural style and adopting attributes that are not natural. She was becoming less and less productive and using more of her energy.

We proved what we both knew but the audit was a great exercise to view her in action as well as provide some quantifiable we can use to measure the change we were introducing to her and her business.

Where did we start? We assessed the people already in the business with behavioural profiles and personal interviews. As it turned out, the customer service person was behaviourally well suited to the role and its responsibilities. The sales person was borderline. This person was incredibly easy to get along with and great at creating and maintaining relationships. This sales person was going to have real difficulty closing deals.

We established a training routine for the customer service person that included 1:1 meetings with my client. We brought in a trainer who set up workflows that are aligned with the productivity tools used in the business; OneNote, OneDrive, Outlook and a CRM.

After some consideration it was decided the sales person would be retained. This person’s natural competencies are being applied to developing relationships with new potential clients and deepening relationships with existing clients. We created a methodology and process for this work to be undertaken and aligned this with some configuration of the CRM. This work paid huge dividends in productivity and we have a very happy and very successful relationship builder.

This has not solved the sales role requirements fully. For the next 3-5 months, my client will be introduced to prospects late in the sales cycle and execute the close and negotiate the agreements. We have set a revenue goal, at which point we will recruit a sales person with the needed behavioural competencies to close deals and work in partnership with the existing person working on client relationships.

5 Tactics to Support Your Employee Engagement Strategy [Part 4]

It used to be a joke that if you had a job title change to ‘Special Projects’ you were headed out the back door of your employment.  Maybe the joke still lives.  However, I have met plenty of very talented problem solvers having a job title the same or similar to ‘Special Projects.’

This tactic requires a bit of a mind shift on the part of some leaders and managers who are wedded to the traditional job description without flexibility.  It is time to re-consider how we structure work in our organisations to enable people to more fully utilise their skills, creativity, problem solving and decision making.  How do we do this?  Projects.

Projects is a big word with a huge spectrum of complexity.  For the purposes of this tactic you can control the size, scale and complexity of projects based on your organisation and the people you have on your team.  I like this definition of ‘project’ I found when I ‘Googled’ the word,

an individual or collaborative enterprise that is carefully planned to achieve a particular aim.’

People at all levels of your organisation can work on a project basis.  My clients have struggled at times to structure a position into a project framework.  This problem is commonly encountered with jobs involving repetition and reactive work; office administration, personal assistants, reception, manufacturing, warehousing etc.  For these types of positions, I recommend looking at option 3 in the list below.

The entire job description is documented as projects –

  1. Full project descriptions, plans and resources
  2. Project titles/outcomes are included in the position description and the employee creates the project plan and resources
  3. Projects are added to the job description based on current skills or skills that are to be developed.

I have included a short list of some of the attributes and benefits to an organisation and its people when the project framework is applied to job descriptions.

  • Provides a sense of personal responsibility to be accountable for project outcomes.
  • Projects can enable employees in repetitious and/or reactive positions to have a ‘release valve’ to tap into their interests and develop their skills.  This is definitely a boredom prevention strategy.
  • There is less risk of ‘task’ and ‘focus’ drift with defined tasks, milestones and completion dates.
  • Projects are conducive to manager – employee collaboration to address performance hurdles, roadblocks, training needs and other important relationship building interactivity between managers, supervisors and team members.
  • Project methodology leaves less room for vagaries in an individual’s or team’s performance.
  • Successful execution of projects creates positive momentum in a person’s career and often contributes to a greater sense of meaning about their work.

This tactic can be implemented in a pilot roll out for selected positions within your organisation or for new inductees.  By implementing as a pilot you can devote some time to testing and evaluating new work flows, reporting and performance systems.  The manager and supervisors impacted by this pilot will likely require some training and coaching to facilitate and support these changes.

If you have the opportunity you should check in with your ‘C’ level and/or senior management to learn how they structure their work.  You should find that they are all outcomes focused and often their work plans are very close to project methodology.  If this is the case you have a golden opportunity to garner support for this and other engagement tactics.

Would you like to explore this tactic in more detail?  Get in touch and we can help you get a plan together.

People Join Organizations and Quit Managers

We have heard this statement over and over “People join organizations and quit managers.”  But is there any truth to it?  According to two different research reports, one reason people leave organizations is due to the boss.  Kenexa research shows that 30% of turnover is due to the boss.  Forbes completed a study titled, “Why Your Top Talent is Leaving in 2014 & What It’ll Take to Retain Them” and they cite that 37% of top talent is leaving due to Boss’ Performance.

Research conducted by Gallup, Inc. supports the statistics from Kenexa and Forbes.  They go on to quantify the qualities employees want in a manager. The top four are:

  1. Managers who show care, interest and concern for their staff
  2. To know what is expected of them
  3. A role which fits their abilities
  4. Positive feedback and recognition regularly for work done well

One of the reasons employees leave is because of their boss.  So, to improve retention, we need to improve boss’ performance.  How do organizations improve management performance?  Here are a few ideas:

  1. Set clear performance expectations.  Your leaders need to know that you expect them to be good leaders and that you want them to show their employees that they care, are interested in them, provide feedback and recognition, to provide employees with a job that fits their abilities and that employees understand what is expected of them.
  2. Train your leaders. Offer your leaders management development opportunities on the qualities and capabilities you want your leaders to demonstrate.  Ensure that the courseware helps your leaders apply the training on the job. Remember – your leaders will only become good at being a leader if they practice the content in the courses they completed.
  3. Be a good role model.  Model the qualities you expect of your leaders.

Author: Cindy Pascale
Cindy Pascale is the CEO and co-founder of Vado and has 16+ years of HR, Training & Development and OD leadership experience and 12 years running talent management, development and assessment companies.  Vado is the e-learning courseware provider ‘changing the face of learning’.

3 Major Causes of Poor Execution in Organisations

One of the most commonly mentioned issues by leaders of organizations in my client community is the lack of execution and follow through.   This critical issue spans from lack of follow up calls by the sales team to entire projects stalled or abandoned due to lack of execution and accountability up and down the hierarchy.

There are a number of causes of lack of execution and accountability.  I will touch on some of them here as a primer.  Given the enormity of the issue across all types of organizations, I will devote more time in future writing to this set of topics and offer some real solutions.  These issues can be solved.  In the meantime they are costing your organization time and money.  Lack of execution and accountability also contributes to low performance cultures and morale.  Who wants to work with a team that never celebrates the victories of completed projects, big deals won and new initiatives delivering results?

  1. Communication lacks clarity and specificity.  This was really hammered home to me once when a colleague showed me a graphic illustrating how many people in an organization hear a message but do not retain it, how many understand the message and take no action, how many want to take action but do not know how and of course the smallest number of all; how many hear the message and take action.  It is scary and if you are a leader of an organization you should be scared.
  2. Top to bottom and bottom to top accountability is lacking.  If the senior leadership do not keep each other accountable then it is unlikely that middle management is accountable and if middle management is not accountable then the rest of the organization is not accountable.  Guess what you have?  A crappy paralyzed culture that will slip into to a ‘doom loop’ if it has not done so already.
  3. Nobody is listening.   We all remember the ‘voice of the customer’ as a big thing a decade or so ago, [it is still important].  How many leaders and managers really listen to their people?  I mean really listen.  I have worked with firms who have implemented collaboration platforms to try to alleviate this and the people are too shit scared to be honest enough to make a difference.  I bet most people doubt whether the leadership would even acknowledge, let alone, take action on input from employees.  If things are not getting done, it could be that people have some input and ideas on why this is happening.

There is another biggie that can be added to this list; the organization has not strategic objectives.   Most people would be amazed to realize that many businesses do not have strategies let alone a business plan.

I will dive more deeply into this topic area in future posts.  This whole issue of execution is a big deal and there are a lot of facets to the issue.  I will do my best to offer some ideas for solutions.