Where does employee retention fall in your priorities for 2011 list? Too many are still complacent, believing the poor job market will keep workers in place. But hiring is steadily ticking up and unemployment steadily falling.
How at risk are you? According to MetLife’s Ninth Annual Study of Employee Benefit Trends:
• 1 in 3 employees are a flight risk
• Employee loyalty at a three year low, dropping 11 percentage points (after a steady decline)
• Employee satisfaction is also dropping at a rate of 8 percentage points over the last three years
Since employers also admit being less focused on employee satisfaction and work-life balance at the same time they’re report dramatic productivity gains is it any wonder employees are less loyal to the companies trying to wring blood from a stone?
Recognize This! – HR priorities are many. Solving one can be the solution to many others.
Concluding my week-long series on the Top 5 Critical HR Priorities for 2011 from the Corporate Leadership Council HR global agenda poll, is a tie!
Priority 5 for HR in 2011: A Tie! — Improving Employee Performance, Workforce Planning, Improving Strategic Effectiveness of HR
Improving Employee Performance has a lot to do with management of the company culture itself. Two research studies on this topic seem to contradict each other. The first argues changing culture is hard because it’s “sacred.” If you break culture down into climate, and then into habits, change becomes easier because are more willing to change habits. Based on brain science, the second study argues habits are, in fact, hard to change because doing so is actually painful, requiring a conscious override of “deeply comfortable neuronal circuitry. But (and this is a critical point I think the first researcher would also agree with):
“Therefore, to engender change among people in an organization, it’s important to keep attention focused on the desired end state, not on avoiding problems. This goal-directed positive reinforcement must take place over and over. The most effective way to achieve this is to set up practices and processes that make it easy for people to do the right thing until it becomes not only second nature, but an ethic taken to heart (and to the brain) by the entire company.”
My fourth post in a series about the Top 5 Critical HR Priorities for 2011 from the Corporate Leadership Council HR global agenda poll, continues to bring together the learnings from Priority 1, Priority 2 and Priority 3.
Priority 4 for HR in 2011: Managing Organizational Change
It’s not surprising this is a hot topic in today’s economic environment. I’ve written before about the impact of the recession (and the resulting changes in company strategy and objectives) on employee understanding of those changed objectives and what that means in their daily work. Recent research from Booz & Co. reported “56% of executives say ensuring day-to-day decisions are in line with strategy is a significant challenge.”
Getting this right is now more crucial than ever. Numerous indicators point to an improving economy and job market. Employees have more options for employment. Customer budgets are opening up. What are you doing to effectively and appropriately redirect employee energy to those projects and strategic targets you need them to hit? How are you ensuring this message is carried accurately to all global locations so no employees feel like outcasts?
Employees are more than willing to work on these priorities – if they know what they are. Commenting on results from research conducted with Gagen MacDonald, an APCO Worldwide senior executive commented:
“The large gap between employee and employer connection we’ve seen in the last two years is alarming. It’s clear from the survey results that to close this gap, CEOs and their executive teams need to have clearly defined company values aligned with their business strategy and support … and regularly communicate those values personally.“
Laura Miller, Chief Human Resource Officer and Robin Gee, Head of Employee Engagement at Coca-Cola were speakers at the 5th Annual Internal Branding & Employee Engagement Conference, which was held in Miami, FL in February 2011. This is a recap of the presentation and challenges/solutions presented within.
As one of the most recognized brands in the world there is no shortage of employee brand love at Coke, but how do you turn brand love into company love? With the impending merger of the Coca Cola Company and independent bottler, Coca-Cola Enterprises the organization knew they needed to approach the vertical integration with careful planning and strong communication. This could present a huge opportunity to build engagement and a sense of “oneness” between the companies or dissolve into two cultures fighting against the merger. Two companies on parallel paths drove engagement. The key to Coca-Cola Refreshments success at engagement was leader led, business owned, HR facilitated and employee involved.
Priority 3 for HR in 2011: Engaging Employees
I can’t seem to read my email in any given day without seeing another employee engagement research report, each riddled with stats. Here’s just a sampling from the last couple of months:
* 45% said improving employee engagement is a top challenge, and 70% expect that challenge to intensify. (UNUM)
* Employees’ levels of engagement are much lower than they were pre-recession, with levels of commitment to the organisation dropping by 17 percentage points since 2006. (Mercer)
* More than half of CEOs are not engaged in engagement, 22% do not understand it, 19% don’t see the business benefits, and 15% are aware of the concept but not ROI from it. (HR Magazine)
* 69% of Canadian companies consider low employee engagement a major issue in their organization. (Poll)
Isn’t it comforting to have employees that come to work every day, do their jobs and go home without an unpleasant word to say? It must mean they are happy and that you as an employer are doing everything perfectly. Right? Umm, yeah, not always…
The funny thing about some employees is that sometimes they sit on their misery. They keep it to themselves, complaining to friends, family and Facebook about the reasons they hate their job. They may even gossip together as co-workers bemoaning management, workloads or even the brand of coffee the company buys. But nothing stays a secret forever; sooner or later a boss is bound to over hear a break room diatribe. And when that happens, they may wonder, “How is this the first time I’ve heard this complaint?” The truth is, quiet employees aren’t always satisfied employees, and sometimes their silence is just the well trained practice of long-term tongue biting. So why don’t more people speak up? Well there are plenty of reasons, and many of them are roadblocks any boss can address.
The biggest reasons an employee will take their lumps in silence is straight up fear. Many people fear for their job safety on a daily basis, and reasonably so. We are still in an economic downturn in spite of rhetoric to the contrary. Times are hard, cuts need to be made. So even though in business the squeaky wheel gets the grease, often people feel that in the case of employee dissatisfaction, the squeaky wheel gets the axe.
Some of you more evil overlords out there may wonder what’s wrong with a healthy dose of fear. Well, granted too much security can lead to laziness and distraction, but too much fear leads to an unhealthy level of paranoia. When you keep employees living under an umbrella of fear you may quell complaining, but you may also find yourself stifling your own growth. An employee that is afraid to voice their criticisms is also most likely terrified to offer up new ideas. And that is just a shame. In any business, the best solutions to problems and even innovations often come from the front lines. The guys who are in the trenches every day, and if those people feel like they could be fired for looking at management the wrong way, they will never feel comfortable bringing the full force of their creativity to the table.
Rich Borden, Director of Internal Communications at American Eagle was a speaker at the 5th Annual Internal Branding & Employee Engagement Conference, which was held in Miami, FL in February 2011. This is a recap of the presentation and challenges/solutions presented within.
American Eagle, the #1 denim provider in North America for 15-25 year olds, goes out of its way to begin building brand ambassadors as soon a new team member joins AE. The team at American Eagle focus on four distinct areas that help to bring new employees into the fold and build (and excite) brand ambassadors. American Eagle focuses on first getting branding right before the on-boarding, then connecting new hires to the brand on Day 1, offering “all in” brand advocacy and engaging & connecting from Year 1 to Year X in their career. American Eagle also has a strong focus on giving back to their communities and supporting employees in their desire to give back.
Patrick Farnan, Head of Communications at AIG Asset Management was a speaker at the 5th Annual Internal Branding & Employee Engagement Conference, which was held in Miami, FL in February 2011. This is a recap of the presentation and challenges/solutions presented within.
Prior to 2008, AIG was a stable company that consistently experienced growth. In 2007, AIG was the world’s largest insurance company made up of 130 companies and 120,000 employees. The company was entrepreneurial, innovative, and prided itself on having the best and brightest.
On the horizon loomed the housing crisis and in 2008 AIG received an $85 Billion government bailout as a result of their inability to pay debts. They took a beating in the media that very few companies could have survived. Employees heard about this fallout from the news, not their managers. Panic was everywhere within the organization. In the midst of the storm, news came out in 2009 that bonuses would be paid to the very same people who perpetrated the failure. Contracts that had been in place long before the fall were being enforced and AIG had to pay them. It became a security issue for employees as there were calls to attack the company. AIG went into hiding during this time, thinking less damage would be done if no comment was provided.
If you’ve seen the recent reports that more employees are quitting their jobs as the economy improves, then hearing that employee loyalty nationwide is at a three-year low should be about as shocking as hearing that Charlie Sheen is getting a reality TV show.
I mean, we all saw this coming, right? (Well, maybe not all of us…See below.)
Today, MetLife released a new study indicating that, not only is employee loyalty at its lowest point since 2008, but some employers evidently aren’t aware of this fact. (Awkward!) According to the study, 47 percent of employees report feeling a very strong loyalty to their employers, while 51 percent of employers said they felt employees were very loyal.
You can read the details of the study here, but below are some of the larger implications that you as an employer need to consider:
Certain benefits matter more than you think: While employers are generally correct in thinking that salary and wages are the biggest drivers of employee loyalty, many underestimate the role retirement benefits and non-medical benefits (such as dental, disability and life insurance) play in employee satisfaction, too.
Melanie Lewis, Director of Commercial Engagement at AstraZeneca was a speaker at the 5th Annual Internal Branding & Employee Engagement Conference, which was held in Miami, FL in February 2011. This is a recap of the presentation and challenges/solutions presented within.
Melanie Lewis spoke to the group about her role at AstraZeneca, as the person tasked with engaging a geographically remote sales force that is challenged by a regulation heavy, product centric pharmaceutical business. The sales team represents 50% of the US population for AstraZeneca and to quote a business leader: “When the sales organization catches a cold, everyone else gets pneumonia.” Business practices and regulation in the medical industry are driving the need for confident, resilient, innovative and engaged employees.
I follow a lot of blogs in the HR and leadership space, as I’m sure you do, too. One I recently started enjoying is Respectful Workplace. A post at the end of last year has resonated so strongly with me, I must share it with you. In “The Power of Recognition,” Erica Pinsky wrote:
“Rather it is the daily practice of recognition – the thank you’s , great job, we couldn’t have gotten here without your input, you are a valued member of this team – that inspire many of us to want to continue making an effort. Let’s face it, whatever our job, task or profession, we want to know that what we are doing matters. We all want to know that others appreciate the effort we make. And unless someone is doing that on a regular basis, chances are we won’t feel valued or appreciated, which often translates to a lack of motivation and the inevitable drop in productivity.”
Erica’s covered all the basics here – frequency, sincerity, timeliness – and the strong link between recognition, performance and productivity.
Wally Bock, author of the excellent Three Star Leadership blog, made a similar case, but also highlighting what should not be praised:
“I do not praise thee for capacity. You do not merit praise for being smart or talented or any other gift you have received without merit or effort on your part.”
Wrapping up our week-long look at the Economist Intelligence Unit/HayGroup study on employee engagement attitudes in the board room, the greatest challenge is the same is in many initiatives – taking action.
“Strong opinions might not translate into visible action. A sizeable discrepancy exists between what companies say about the perils of disengagement and how far they will actually go to confront the problem.”
The lack of action is likely due to three reasons:
1) Confusion – too much advice from too many sources on what to tackle first, making it easier to choose to do nothing.
2) Fear – concern that the “wrong” action might be taken, making engagement worse.
3) Complacency –it’s easier to stick your head in the sand and hope it all goes away. After all, it’s not really that bad, right?
Let me make it simple for you. Employee engagement boils down to this: does the employee understand their role in the organization, realize the importance of that role to company success, and desire to contribute their all achieve that success?