What contributes to workplace stress?

In April 2018, Canada Life Group Insurance released a study showing that workers’ productivity is badly impacted by stress and anxiety in the workplace. The study shows office workers are impacted most severely.

Here are some of the findings of the research study that although not unexpected should still be very concerning.
* 30% of workers report feeling stressed or anxious due to high workloads and pressure to perform.
* Workers in cubicles and open plan offices are more regularly impacted by workplace stress than those that work from home.
* 23% of employees report lower productivity based on their feeling that their boss does not care about their wellbeing.
* 77% of employees offered flexible working arrangements say this improves their productivity.

I am always amazed at how many of my clients’ offices are rows of tables with computers. There are some reports that this trend is showing signs of reversing, nonetheless people are asked to perform effectively and be productive with other persons on either side and in front of them.

Here are some additional findings from the Canada Life Group Insurance research study. Notice the differences in the percentage of people reporting being stressed at work based on their office style:
* Cubicle style        37%
* Open plan            32%
* Private office        31%
* Work from home  17%

Strategy in the age of urgency

There are some organisation and culture shifts you and your leadership team may want to consider when developing your strategy.

Focus on speed by encouraging decision- making outside safety net you may have in your culture. Do your people make decisions with enough information or are decision stalled by too much research and risk aversion?

Design your strategy and execution plan to accommodate the dynamism that exists in your industry sector(s), competitors and within your organisation. Resist the common temptation to build objectives based on expected outcomes and focus on value creation. Value creation may demand more course correction and fluidity in business processes.

Push decision making to the points in your organisations that are faced with the immediate need to make those decisions. Remove your fear and recruit and develop your people to make decisions rapidly and in response to needs. This is becoming even more critical in the competition for the best customer experience.

Change your training models to focus on individual needs. One size fits all may be ok for compliance training but if you want to attract and retain talent, you must offer tailored development that will benefit your people and your organisation.

As you empower people to make decisions quickly, change your thinking about leadership. Shed the outdated model of leadership bestowed by title and position. Any person can be a leader and you want as many in your organisation as you can recruit and develop.

Using principles to align your people and your organisation is far more effective and adaptable that stacks of policy and procedure manuals. Principles require modelling and incessant communication at all levels of the organisation and particularly by leadership.  Principles need to be part of the performance review process.

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.

Strategic Execution vs Performance Management

Some businesses confuse performance management and execution of strategic objectives. It appears that more companies use performance management processes than businesses that have execution processes designed to achieve strategic objectives. 

How do performance management and strategic execution differ? 

Performance management is typically linked to a role or position. The position will be documented and include a list of competencies that are needed to perform the position. These competencies may be static or changing depending on the position.  Changes to competency requirements often occur when new strategic or tactical objectives are launched in the organisation. 

 A learning management system (LMS) can be used to audit the organisation for gaps in the new competency requirements. Training can be rolled out to address these gaps and enable the organisation to track status and completions. In the LMS, the competencies can be assessed using surveys or assessments by the individual, peers and managers. 

The performance management process typically operates on a cycle of goal setting and performance review meetings between managers and their teams. The employee is rated and human resources collects the data. The performance review process is ideally linked to learning and development plans that are then offered via an LMS and tracked accordingly. 

Strategic execution is how an organisation translates its strategic objectives to the workforce. The process is designed to ensure that management is able to track and monitor activity and progress to ensure strategic objectives are completed successfully in the timeframe allotted to them; typically a quarter, half year or financial year. 

The translation of strategy is often called a ‘cascade’ as it changes form the further it moves away from the board or senior executive level. The strategic objectives are translated to supporting goals, departmental targets, team goals and individual tasks. 

In the image below, a client uses Job Titles as opposed to Positions or Roles.  This client recently audited their job titles and created new position descriptions aligned with them. It made sense to use job titles as opposed to departments, teams or other organisational structure terminology. 

 

The key ingredient in ensuring that strategic objectives are executed is the use of regular status update meetings involving teams or individuals with their managers. These meetings are focused on the tasks that have been assigned to each individual.

The ‘check in’ meetings are short with a set agenda. The outcome is the manager has an up to date dashboard of project and task status. The employees are able to highlight issues or impediments that may be impacting performance and request assistance from the manager. The combined information captured in these meetings forms one part of the performance data used in performance reviews. 

On the strategic level, these meetings enable managers to forecast completion of key objectives as well as flag any possible delays.  This process prevents surprises for senior managers who will have less time to take corrective action.  

Can you really implement ‘grassroots’ social learning?

Social learning is leaving the standard LMS behind.

YouTube is THE social learning platform. The range of learning available on YouTube reflects the growth in informational data being created every minute of every day.

When you are faced with a computer issue, where do you go? If you are seeking to learn a new Excel skill? If you want to learn how to French polish an antique? The same process applies to people in your organization. According to research by Degreed in 2015, respondents to a survey indicated:

  • Almost 85% search online at least once a week for learning they can apply at work.
  • Nearly 70% learn from peers or by reading articles and blogs every week.
  • 53% learn from videos in any given week.

Not much of a mention for the corporate LMS? Social learning is based on speed of access, accuracy of subject matter and easy to apply learning. Does your current LMS and the content offered from it, comply with these parameters?

To address this issue by giving up on the LMS is not necessarily the best way to go. Many LMS platforms have been designed with an emphasis on ‘management’ as opposed to ‘learning.’ Many modern learning management systems include configuration options to support better social learning. It can often mean a change of mindset as opposed to a change in technology to achieve effective social learning outcomes.

You should check out this post by David James of Looop.co that gives an excellent example of how Sanoma Group ‘re-imagined’ L&D and successfully tapped into subject matter experts and created learning content that was easily accessible and improved peoples’ ability to do their work effectively.

If this interests you, get in touch by clicking here.  We will share some insights and a case study based on helping organisations achieve better results with ‘grassroots’ social learning.