This month as we focus on Thanksgiving, consider the power of gratitude in your workplace. Before your thoughts turn to friends, family and football, spend a few minutes thinking about how appreciation can make a difference to your business.
Tom Peters was so right when he noted “People don’t forget kindness.” It’s the same with gratitude. The power of a sincere thank you cannot be overestimated. In a recent study on employee engagement, the top factor of job satisfaction was respectful treatment of employees at all levels. Second on the list was trust between employees and management. If you practice the first item, you achieve the second one.
It takes conscious effort to build a culture where every employee feels appreciated. We all like to be noticed for the good things we do. People who feel appreciated believe their work makes a difference. They are more willing to go the extra mile because they know someone notices.
Making gratitude visible is a step you can build into your internal communications. Here are three ideas:
Appreciation by senior leadership—Create a year-end video of the senior management team thanking team members for their service this year. Get out of the office and film it with front line workers. Switching the wardrobe from suits and ties to ugly Christmas sweaters and elf ears will create smiles for years to come.
Appreciation by managers—Write a thank you note. It’s low tech, but more effective than a gift card. Be specific about how the individual contributes to the team. Not only will your employee appreciate the gesture, they will know that you are paying attention.
Appreciation by team members—It feels great to say thank you. That’s why peer-to-peer recognition programs are motivating to employees. They strengthen a culture of support, collaboration and achievement. Peer recognition programs should tie to your company values. Tailor the program to your business, but make the recognition defined, public and fun.
The power of gratitude is a multiplier. When you recognize people for their contributions, they perform better, trust grows and so does your workplace culture.
For many corporate employees, this is bonus season. In February, when year-end results are being finalized, the buzz builds. Will we make bonus, and by how much? In March, the anticipation is unmistakable.
Whether the news is good or bad, bonus season gives leaders a spotlight to connect individual performance and business results. While the architecture of bonus plans vary, most include a performance-related reward with a pay out when the company’s financial results and the individual’s performance meet set criteria. For example, when Apple missed sales and profit goals for 2016, Tim Cook saw a cut to his performance-based cash incentive. Don’t worry about Tim. Overall, he still did pretty well.
Whether the news is good or bad, the way you tell the story will impact employee engagement. Let’s look at communication strategies for both scenarios.
When the incentive target is achieved
Explain how it works. The only people who truly understand the bonus system work in Compensation. Prior to bonus announcement, send out a review of the bonus program with visual examples. Provide an online bonus calculator.
Celebrate. Good news should never be buried in an email. Create a brief video from the senior leadership team thanking employees for their contributions last year. An authentic thank you is always appreciated.
Set expectations for the current year. High performance cultures innovate, collaborate and continuously improve. Now is the time to be talking about 2017 stretch goals and aligning performance and priorities so bonuses are achieved in 2018. Create talking points for managers to cascade.
When the incentive target is missed
Explain how it works. See above. Talk through the plan structure. If thresholds were not achieved, clarify how that impacted pay outs. Remind employees that the bonus is just one component of a comprehensive rewards package and it’s performance-based. It’s extra pay for exceptional results.
Pre-announcement preparations. Prepare for this like you would for a customer or shareholder meeting. Compose key messages, draft FAQs and ensure managers are informed and prepared. Set up a channel for employee questions.
Hold town hall meetings. Where did the company fall short? Talk about it. Listen, answer questions, and discuss priorities and opportunities for 2017.
Proactive communications help connect the dots for team members. Businesses win when everyone knows, understands and lives the company’s values. Show them their contributions make a difference.
This time of year, a kind of holiday haze sets in. The breakroom counters are bursting with tins of holiday cookies and flavored popcorn. Employees are focusing on completing 2016 assignments (and scheduling holiday getaways).
December marks the fiscal year-end for many businesses. Help your employees successfully navigate through the many December deadlines with proactive communications that show you care about more than the bottom line. Here are five tried-and-true ways to do it.
1. Clarify year-end deadlines. Start your team meetings with a reminder or checklist of deadlines for invoice processing, Flexible Spending Accounts, finalize expense reports, and other year-end deliverables. This messaging should begin December 1 and continue through the month.
2. Communicate vacation benefits. Paid time off is treasured by employees. If your business has a “use it or lose it” vacation policy, remind team members so they can schedule time off before year-end. If your company allows vacation accrual, communicate the accrual limit. Ensure there are no surprises in January.
3. Come together through service. Studies show that volunteerism increases pride, commitment and employee engagement. Contact a local charity, food bank or civic association for ideas on how your team can get involved during the holidays.
4. Celebrate 2016 achievements. Create a top ten list of your team’s “Greatest Hits of 2016” or ask team members to talk about one thing that helped them be successful this year. Connect the dots to show how every role contributes to delivering performance and your company’s vision.
5. Say thank you. To make a connection that lasts, send a personal note of thanks. Low cost, big impact. Be sincere and make it personal by including a strength or a behavior the individual brings to the team.
One day last week I parked in front of a white, mid-sized car. Not brand new, not a luxury brand, just a car you might not notice. Except I did. Because it had long, black eyelashes on the headlights.
As it turns out, you can buy car eyelashes for less than $30. It’s an inexpensive way to share a little flair. If you’re looking, you’ll notice the countless ways drivers personalize their rides, from snazzy rims to monogramed window stickers.
The takeaway here is not the growth in auto accessory sales, but the ever-increasing desire for self-expression. Your business can harness that powerful trend by creating communications channels that encourage collaboration and involvement.
To be relevant, internal communications has to invite and ignite employees to share their opinions and personality. Once internal communications was top-down: we’ll tell you what you need to know. As internal communications evolved, communication improved with employee surveys, town halls and feedback sessions. Think about this: How often does anyone actually ask a question at a town hall session?
Involvement communications is a fancy term for connecting with individuals, not groups. It’s about creating ways for your colleagues to participate. Here are three excellent ways to start:
· Social media—Invite employees to share what they love about your company as brand ambassadors. Create a hashtag and use it on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Share the guidelines on how to use it and promote it internally. Then watch how they share what they love about your business. You’ll be amazed how quickly it’s adopted. Want some good examples? Go to #AdobeLife, #LifeatIHG or #ToBeAPartner.
· Online forums–Create an online forum on your company’s intranet and solicit ideas for building engagement and productivity or saving money. Enterprise networks like Yammer, tibbr, or Chatter create a channel to collaborate, share insights and new ideas.
· Involvement events—Create events that let them share their passions. Chili cook-offs, photo contests, or service days are simple, inexpensive ways to bring teams together to build community. Ask for selfies and share the day through communication channels.
Want more ideas on how to bring your internal communications to life? Let’s connect: firstname.lastname@example.org
When looking for a job what considerations do you take into account? Compensation is a key factor. For some, a position with the right work/life balance is most important. One thing that you need to take into account when choosing a company is their work place culture. In my personal experience I’ve had jobs that I’ve enjoyed and others where I’ve dreaded coming to work each day. When I look back at why I enjoyed some jobs and disliked others it usually came down to their work place culture.
Recently the Atlanta Journal Constitution released their list of “Best Places to Work in Atlanta 2015.” Over 1,400 companies were nominated by their employees. The results were determined based on employee surveys. A number of common themes emerge among the companies that scored near the top. These companies invested in their employees not only in the form of compensation and benefits but also in their well-being. Employees at these companies felt respected, empowered, motivated, and appreciated by their employers.
“This makes perfect sense from a most basic human standpoint. People want to feel like they are a valuable part of something good,” said Jim Minnick, CEO and co-founder of the financial services firm eVestment. “It would be more surprising if the opposite were true.”
Tom Beaty, CEO and founder of the management consultant Insight Sourcing Group stated, “Everyone wants to be appreciated and feel like they matter. The loyalty of my team members is humbling and creates an obligation for me to ensure that they have a great experience, are able to continue to grow and learn.”
Some companies are so focused on performance and the bottom line that they forget to invest in their people. Employees at top scoring companies said they believe in their company because their leaders believe in them.
When you invest in your employees, they will see the benefits to their well-being, and your company will in turn see the benefits to its culture and performance.
Need to work on employee engagement in your business? Contact us and let’s get started.
The phrase, “employee engagement” tends to lose power each time someone hits it with a laser pointer in a conference room. But when it comes right down to it, employee engagement is about honoring, recognizing, and uplifting people. It’s about showing them they are valued and connected to something bigger than themselves that really matters. It’s about bringing the spark that makes them special, unique, and priceless into the workplace.
This month, make a resolution to take small steps that make a real difference in how employees feel about their jobs and how much of themselves they contribute in the workplace.
Here are three simple things you resolve to do this year to better engage employees:
Communicate regularly: Keeping employees in the loop about the company’s big picture and their role in it makes them feel valued and included, promotes a healthy attitude toward otherwise stressful changes, and helps ensure everyone is headed in the same direction. Whether you do it formally through newsletters, the company intranet, email blasts, text messages, or by just dropping by to talk, regular two-way communications create good will. Create a communications plan so those opportunities to share don’t slip through the cracks.
Create peer-to-peer recognition opportunities: Peer recognition may be more motivating because it comes from the people who know exactly what it takes to do the job well. It’s also more immediate and contextual than an annual or semi-annual review. Be sure to make peer recognition easy to do, frequent, and public and tie it to your company values.
Sponsor community service activities: Getting employees together to meet the needs of the world around you is a great way to strengthen relationships and make them feel good about working for a company whose concerns extend beyond its walls and its bottom line. Millennials in particular expect their work to connect them to something bigger than themselves.
This list is just a small sample of what you can do to make a big difference. Let us know what plans you have or what you have done in the past to increase employee engagement. And if you need expert help with an employee engagement plan, give us a shout. It’s what we do!
I was in Green Bay, Wisconsin last month with my family and we visited Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. My husband is a Wisconsin native and a recovering Packers fan. My father-in-law attended the legendary Ice Bowl, the 1967 NFL Championship between Green Bay and Dallas. He credits a flask of brandy in his coat pocket with keeping him alive that day.
Lambeau Field is a beautiful facility with a gift shop as large as an elementary school. Right out front is a statue of Vince Lombardi, the former coach. I’m very familiar with Vince, not because I’m a Packers fan, but because I’ve used his quotes on teamwork and leadership countless times over my career.
To win five NFL champions, you need great talent, strong fundamentals, and more than your share of good luck, but there are two elements that are required. You can’t win without teamwork and leadership.
Businesses are looking for the formula that helps their managers become better leaders and employees more engaged. Leadership is not about one thing, it’s about everything: creating a specific vision, setting measurable goals, listening and asking for input, inspiring your team to work together and succeed, recognizing and celebrating success. If there was a simple, one-time solution, everyone would use it. Leadership is an ongoing process that requires daily attention.
Although Vince Lombardi passed more than 40 years ago, his perspective on leadership still resonates. Take a look at a few of his quotes and let them inspire you to be a more effective leader.
“Individual commitment to a team effort is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work. “
“Leaders aren’t born; they are made, just like anything else through hard work.”
“Leadership is based on a spiritual quality—the power to inspire.”
“The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.”
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can attain excellence.”
“The key to success is heart power. Capture the hearts of people you are leading, connect their hearts to your goals and nothing will be impossible for you.”
How have you been a leader in the past? Did leadership advice from greats like Vince Lombardi help you? Share your story with me! Contact Maureen at email@example.com.
Who is the worst boss you ever worked for? Someone immediately comes to mind, right? Perhaps there’s more than one person. Maybe your horror story is a client that was so difficult that you found a way to fire yourself from that relationship.
As years go by, we tend to add a little varnish to these nightmare stories. It becomes the legend that you share at parties when comparing nutty workplaces. Each person tells their story and everyone howls at the absurdity of the situation. I can think of three stories immediately (all true):
When I worked in a public school system Central Office, the Superintendent, who made three times more than anyone else, invited us to his home for a holiday party. There were about 20 people total. He sent out a note asking everyone to bring a dish and to give him $5 to cover the cost of the ham, which he was providing. His wife was so mortified that she welcomed us at the door with $5 bills, essentially reimbursing the “cover charge.”
Once my boss, an SVP, told me in all sincerity to keep working hard because “One day we’re going to want a woman Vice President in this company.”
Recently a client requested the design files for a completed project. He was in a hurry to get it, so we overnighted the package and sent him the tracking information. About 4 p.m. the next day he called me and unleashed a tirade that would burn your eyebrows off. The clean version is that he expected to get what he paid for and that we were cheating him by not turning over the files. A quick review of the tracking detail showed that the files had been delivered at 9:00 a.m. that morning and signed for by one of his employees. We don’t work with him anymore.
When I think about the worst people I’ve worked for or with, it fundamentally comes down to respect: I did not respect the individual or thought they didn’t respect me.
Are you the star of someone’s worst boss story? With 70% of American workers reporting that they are not engaged, there are lots of opportunities for leaders to do better. Here are few simple things you can do to connect better with your team members:
Expect the best in people-People will live up to your expectations, good or bad.
Ask and listen-When people feel unnoticed, they are less likely to care about their job.
Let people know you better-Show who you are. Talk about your favorite team, hobby or family trip so your team can get to know you.
Say thank you-It costs nothing to say thank you and it always makes a difference.
I recently participated in a panel discussion for business owners and entrepreneurs hosted by the University of Georgia’s Entrepreneurship Program. Our businesses varied, from retail and professional services to banking and healthcare. No two businesses were alike.
Here’s the part that interested me the most: When asked to share their most challenging business issue, it wasn’t business growth, technology costs or the pace of change that drove the conversation. It was people. Nearly every business owner identified people issues as their number one challenge.
They talked about the lack of buy-in for programs and systems. They talked about hiring the right people for the job, and then losing them once they were fully trained. They talked about how difficult it is to motivate front line employees.
Employee engagement is vital whether you run billion dollar business or a mom and pop shop. Your employees are the face of your business to customers. To win their hearts and minds is no small achievement, but it can be done without throwing money at the problem.
A recent Gallup Survey, The State of the American Workplace 2013, states that 70% of American workers are “actively disengaged” and not working to their full potential. Those with the lowest engagement in any occupation are service employees who are on the front line serving customers.
What can we all do to build engagement? Few of us can offer the rich perks offered by Google (like free food, haircuts and fitness training), but there are lots of ways to build pride and engagement. Here are just a few low cost, but effective opportunities:
Hire the right managers. You can talk about how much you love your employees and what a great culture you’re building but your managers must deliver that every day. If they don’t walk the talk, credibility is lost. My favorite former boss used to say great leaders have a balance of skills and style and both are equally important. Don’t hire an individual who is technically superior but can’t motivate and connect with their team. That type of person will drive off your best people.
Say thank you. It doesn’t cost anything to say thank you. Why don’t business leaders say it more often? Recently a business owner told me he often sent thank you notes to clients, but it hadn’t occurred to him to send them to his team. Try it. It works.
Tap into the power of philanthropy. People feel good about helping others. Find a charity that is a good fit with your business and your people will take it from there. Their creativity will amaze you. There are 1.3 million charities in America, and every community has a public school that needs volunteers. Better yet, ask your people what they would like to support. Set up a volunteer work day or fundraiser and see what a meaningful impact it has on your people.
Ask for feedback. Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York, built his brand on four little words, “How am I doing?” Be sure you have a feedback channel for bottom-to-top, instead of top-to-bottom communication. Whether it’s as simple as regularly scheduled staff meetings or a direct email box for ideas and questions, set up a way for employees to interact with management. Then take action. There’s nothing more discouraging than to share your ideas and issues and nothing changes.
Promote healthy lifestyles. Rising healthcare costs are a critical issue for all of us. You can show employees you care by supporting wellness activities. Start with healthier snacks in the break rooms and vending machines. Form an employee Wellness Committee. Celebrate with those who meet their wellness goals and encourage everyone to get healthier.
Sadly, this is the same, basic solution that corporations around the world frequently rely on when it comes to solving problems, improving engagement, recognizing employees, etc.. And it’s for a perfectly good reason — it often works. It’s too bad this isn’t a sustainable way to solve every problem in the book.
I was fortunate enough to work with several dedicated individuals with InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) on their Celebrate Service project this year. Celebrate Service is one of the broadest employee recognition events in the world, reaching out to more than 345,000 of their employees at hotels and offices in 100 countries. (You’re probably familiar with IHG’s brands, which include InterContinental ®, Crowne Plaza ®, and Holiday Inn ®.) In short, the goal of Celebrate Service is for everyone to take one week per year to celebrate how hard they work on a daily basis.
With this being my first year as a part of the project, I remember a question posed at the first Celebrate Service Meeting:
“How do we execute this project better than before and spend less?”
The answer was remarkably basic. Simple, genuine “thank yous.” It’s a concept that’s so rudimentary that it can be bypassed by our brains sometimes, which are usually trying to come up with the next big thing to impress our bosses.
Without delving into the minutiae of the execution of the project, the results were some of the best ever for Celebrate Service (est. 2010). IHG had more than 95% participation globally, their people loved it, and they spent less to do it.
Money helps, but sometimes it’s important to K.I.S.S.