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Can Your Workforce Stay at Home?

Posted by: Mary Gorski Posted Date: 12/16/2009

Have you considered keeping your workforce at home?    Allowing employees to work from home can be a benefit to both the company and worker.  Consider the cost benefits for the employee:

  • The average worker spends around $650.00 per month in transportation costs going to and from work
  • In some cases employees have to pay to park – this could easily exceed $300.00 per month.
  • Employees with children can spend anywhere from $400.00 to $1400.00 per month on day care.
  • The average worker spends 45 minutes to 90 minutes every day commuting.
  • Eating lunch at home is cheaper than preparing meals and taking them to work.
  • People who work at home are less likely to get sick and less likely to spread illnesses when they are sick. (getting sick costs money)
  • People who work at home don’t need to spend as much on clothing.
  • Despite some employer’s fears, recent studies indicate the people who work at home are more productive than their “on location” counter parts.
  • There are some interesting tax benefits for people who work out of their home.

In many cases someone who works at home could take a fairly healthy pay cut while actually making more money.  In other words, both the employee and employer could save money.

Other benefits from the employer standpoint:
  • Less facility costs – office space, lunchrooms, parking lots, desks etc all cost money – work at home employees should save companies considerable expenses even if businesses reimburse workers for home expenses.
  • Less clean up – people make messes.
  • Less Sick Time– many times people who may be sick enough to not come to work, or more than well enough to work at home.
  • Personnel issues such as work place conflict, abuse, petty jealousy, sexual harassment, etc all go away when the majority of your workforce works from home.
What are some downsides?
  • Many people miss the social element of work – not having daily people contact can be a major drawback.
  • Communication can be more difficult
  • Creating engagement without face to face interaction can be more challenging.
  • For some employers, not being able to actively monitor employees can be an issue (even thought studies show work at home employees are more productive.

What should you do to promote engagement in a telecommuting environment?

  • Make sure that you hire people that would thrive in that environment Use Pre-employment assessment to help identify the best people to work at home and be productive.
  • Have more social events that can bring people together.
  • Use technology to help with communication – web conferencing, web cams, chat rooms, social networking sites and more can be used to enable engaging and productive communication throughout your workforce.
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Can You Fire Someone for a Facebook Post?

Posted by: Mary Gorski Posted Date: 12/08/2009

Are you coming to terms with social networking and your workforce?  Many companies are enacting policies regarding time spent surfing the internet, but very little is being done on what an employee can post on social networking sites.  

Some say it’s a personal issue and a freedom of speech and what someone posts on Facebook when they are away from work is none of your business.  Consider the following scenarios:

  • An employee of a health care organization posts malicious comments on elderly patients.
  • A restaurant server posts clever (but derogatory) comments about the sanitary conditions at her workplace. 
  • A disgruntled worker posts a “photo shopped” image of his supervisor in a compromising situation.

All of these posts can damage a businesses reputation; even good natured jokes can cause loss of business.

Employers have the right to make and enforce policies regarding what their employees may post on their sites.  Even though most networking sites are “private” and only seen by their “friends”,   what is seen by a few friends can be re-posted to other friends.  In my view, a post on a Facebook page is the same as placing a want ad in the newspaper.  In the age of “going viral”, any business has a right to protect itself. 

Of course enforcing such a policy is another thing, you probably would never find out about most of these posts and any aggressive investigation actions on your part may breech privacy rights.    So what can you do?

Going around spying or threatening is the worse thing you can do to promote employee engagement.  You have to trust your workforce.   The best bet is a well thought out policy regarding content on social networking sites.  Make it clear to the workforce that any content that could damage your businesses reputation can be grounds for discipline. 

Hopefully you will never have to fire someone for a Facebook post, but having a clear policy that is consistently enforced will help you deal with these issues and avoid wrongful termination lawsuits.

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Is your company being haunted by your own Brett Favre?

Posted by: Mary Gorski Posted Date: 11/14/2009

Anyone who is any kind of a football fan probably saw or heard about Brett Favre returning to Lombardi Field as a Minnesota Viking and beating his old team, the Green Bay Packers. 

If we translated that situation to the typical workplace the headline might read “ex-employee sticks it to former employer”.  The situation occurs more than you might think, but not played out on in front of a national television audience (thank goodness). 

Most of our blog posts concern hiring the right person, or engaging your work force. But what happens after your employee leaves could be a concern to you.  Disgruntled employees who are fired or resign are nothing new; every company probably has had this issue.  But today there are lot more “weapons” for the “ex” to get revenge.  Consider this example:  Employee who is terminated wants revenge- he decides to write something bad about the company and post it on internet blogs, forums, twitters, chat rooms, You Tube, consumer report sites and anywhere else he can think of. The question is, “will anyone even read this nasty note”?

If your business is a typical small business, there are not very many things on the Internet about you.  Maybe your website if you got one and maybe a directory listing.  What that means is that if someone searches in Google using your company name, there won’t be very many things for Google to find, so if  someone posts something about your company on line, it has a very good chance of showing up on or near the first page.  I know of several small companies that had this situation.  Put their name in the search bar, and the third listing on Google is some very nasty stuff. 

What should you do?
 Let’s start with being proactive:
  • First and foremost, make sure that your business conducts itself in an honorable and ethical method at all times.  Make sure that that your expectations for business moral conduct are clearly and frequently communicated across your organization.  It is a lot easier to deal with negative “posts” if they don’t have a little truth in them.
  • Employee Contracts:  Many companies have employee contracts that deal with “post employment” actions.  Non – compete agreements are common but also non-disparagement clauses are possible. 
  • Exit Interviews: Some times exit interviews can reveal potential issues and even address them before the employee decides to become “Attila the blogger”

What can be done reactively?   You suddenly notice that when you search using your company name, the number four post on Google is accusing your business of every atrocity imaginable.  What should you do?  Here are some options:

  • Don’t do anything.  Depending on your business, it may not hurt you at all.  People who surf the internet are use to seeing “disgruntled blogs” and regard them with a grain of salt.  It always looks worse when it is about you, but many times these things may not be worth taking action.
  • Contact the Person:  It may not work, but just asking nicely to remove the false information, or trying to understand why he made the post may result in some friendly agreement.
  • Get the post removed.  There are a variety of avenues to try.  If the post is blatantly fraudulent you can contact the ISP, the hosting company, the owner of the website or even the search engines- you will need to get a professional to help in this case.
  • Take Legal Action:   See your attorney.
  • Hire a Reputation Management Firm:  They may not get the post removed, but they know how push it back to the third or forth page on the search listing.

Hopefully by using good pre-employment assessment tools, you will not hire the type of people who would do these despicable things, but if it does happen, you don’t necessarily have to be like the Green Bay Packers and get bludgeoned in front of the entire world.

Is Your Business Starting to Turn?

Posted by: Mary Gorski Posted Date: 11/05/2009

This is way premature but let me be the first to say it: “congratulations!  You just survived the longest and deepest recession in 60 years.”   How do you feel?  

Unfortunately it doesn’t quite feel like the recession is over, unemployment rate is still high, consumer spending is still down.  But there are some glimmers of good news, the Dow Jones is approaching the 10,000 mark, the housing market has stabilized (maybe) and some segments of business and industry are reporting an upturn.

Is your business starting to turn?   If you are like most businesses, you are still going to be very cautious about adding expense or making investments.  Hopefully the day will come when you will need to increase your staff to keep up with demand.  You probably are going to grow but do it “leaner and meaner” than before.  Maybe some of your competitors have dropped out, providing you with some nice opportunities.

What is the most effective and productive way to add employees?  The answer is simple- hire the right people. Companies hiring now or in the near future will probably have access to one of the largest available talent pools in recent memory.  Hiring the right person should be a snap, correct?  Actually no, even with a huge selection of talent out in the market place, if you are going to use the same techniques for employee selection as in the past, your chances of hiring a star performer are no better than before. 

What are the traditional methods of pre-employment selection?   Select a small group of candidates by weeding through resumes, bring the selected group in for a series of interviews, then call a few references and select the one you like the best.  Congratulations, you just hired someone who is great at writing resumes, doing an interview and has some nice friends for references.  Unfortunately, none of that has anything to do with whether that person will make an outstanding employee; in fact there is an 80% change he won’t be.

What makes and outstanding employee?  Someone who has passion for her work, has values that are compatible with the work environment and has the aptitude to learn and excel.  The only way you will find that person is to use objective, effective pre-employment selection systems that go way beyond the tradition hiring. This is not some new cutting edge methodology, it is tried and true.   Pre-employment selection systems work, as studies show that the chances of hiring an outstanding employee are 4 times greater than traditional hiring methods.

If you are ready to hire, let us know.  We can give you the tools to do it right.

What Happens When a Key Employee Leaves?

Posted by: Mary Gorski Posted Date: 10/26/2009

It sure seems like we’ve had an exceptional number of high profile people who passed away this summer.  Patrick Swayze, Ed McMahon, Senator Edward Kennedy, Farah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Ricardo Montalban and Karl Malden are a few of the high profile celebrities that we are all familiar with.  

It doesn’t mater how important or famous you are, we all face the same consequence at some point.  Additionally, nothing is permanent and there are always going to be changes relating to people in your lives, not just by death, but other events such as relocation, divorce or marriage. Many events can cause us to experience loss of a relationship.

Businesses are subjected to people loss as well.  It may not be as emotional as a personal loss, but a key employee, leaving your company could put your business in a bind.   Small businesses are more susceptible to key losses effecting company performance.  Unfortunately most small businesses don’t prepare for this.

Doing succession planning should be part of any businesses performance management system.  Not having qualified people identified as well as skills sets needed could end up resulting in performance problems when a key executive retires or leaves.  Not doing succession planning will set up successors for failure, or simply result in weak performers as replacements, leaving your organization with management or leadership issues to deal with later on.

The Profile XT TM “Total Person” assessment is a powerful tool that will help you ensure that you have identified potential replacements that match the position.  Even in rough economic times, people leave.  Good succession planning can not only reduce risk, but help identify areas of improvement relating to your leadership development.  If you want more information on succession planning, please call or contact us.

Recognition can be a Double Edged Sword

Posted by: Mary Gorski Posted Date: 10/22/2009

The Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to Barack Obama has certainly stirred some controversy.  Reactions range from embarrassment and anger to elation, depending on what your ideology is.   Personally, I always viewed the award as more of a symbolic gesture (with one million in cash), but I was still surprised.  I guess I thought that something tangible needed to be accomplished to win the Nobel Prize. Reaction from previous winners was mixed; some thought it devalued the award when no clear accomplishment could be identified.  Al Gore and Jimmy Carter (previous winners) praised the choice.  Most people agreed that Barack Obama seemed uncomfortable with receiving the award.

Recognitions and awards can be two edged swords.  While the intension of the giver may be to inspire and motivate, the actual results can be bitterness and divisiveness.  This is especially true at the work place.  While there is probably nothing similar to a Nobel Peace Prize at your workplace, not a day goes by where recognition (given or not given) is not affecting your employee performance. Undeserved recognition is as bad as no recognition at all.  The biggest mistake a company can make is to put in a performance appraisal system that is inconsistent or unfair.  While no employer intentionally creates an unfair system, many times a poor system is put in place.   What are some of the common elements of a poor performance system?

  • Subjective criteria.
  • Inconsistent evaluation periods
  • Inconsistently applied throughout organization
  • Lack of management follow up

Having a poor performance appraisal system can reduce productivity.  On the other hand, having a comprehensive, well thought out system with management follow through can improve productivity and accelerate leadership development.  Setting up a good system takes time and should involve an experienced knowledgeable resource. 

Let us know if we can help you set up and administer a performance management system.

Employee Engagement while Stepping on Kittens

Posted by: Mary Gorski Posted Date: 09/22/2009

You may not be a music video fan, but you may have heard about the stunt that Kanye West pulled when Taylor Swift was accepting the MTV music video of the year award.  During her acceptance speech, Kanye jumped on the stage, took the microphone away from her and announced that Beyonces video was the best ever.  If you don’t know of Taylor Swift, she is a 19 year old country music singer who is very quiet and shy.  Needless to say what Kanye did was devastating to her and prompted a loud round of boos from the celebrities in the audience.  As one celebrity put it in her twitter “…you just stepped on a kitten.”

Unfortunately there are many CEO’s, business owners or top managers who inadvertently “step on kittens”.   Other similar expressions are “raining on her parade”, or “stealing her thunder”.   What ever you call it; it happens all the time and can thwart efforts to promote employee engagement.  Most employees are motivated by something other than money.  Recognition, fun challenges, socially significant project, and working with people you like are just some of the other motivators that are important considerations for promoting engagement.  Most people want recognition in one form or another.  Many times managers while trying to praise and motivate- end up ‘stepping on kittens”.

Here are some examples that may sound familiar to you.
  • Insincere Recognition:  Jeff is an engineer who did a redesign on a product.  The results ultimately saved the company thousands of dollars per year.  The CEO heard about it and wanted to express his appreciation.  When he saw the engineer during a company meeting, he went over and said “great job on the ED Toy project, I really love the graphics”.  The problem was that the engineer’s project had nothing to do with the graphics.  What the CEO essentially told him is that he knew nothing about the project, or what the engineer did, and probably that he didn’t care.  A great opportunity to praise someone turned into a huge demoralizer. 
  • Reassignments:  Sally was working on a project that was relating to reducing water consumption on a house hold appliance,  The environment and being “green” was extremely important to her and she was extremely proud to be part of this project.  Before the project was finished, her manager reassigned her to a different project; a project that the manager felt would give the employee more visibility.  In actuality the manager denied the employee the honor of finishing one of the most important projects she ever worked on.  She was pretty devastated by the move.
  • The Unrecognized Supporting Cast:  Bill was selected from the engineering department to be a full time team member for an ERP implementation project.  The project lasted 8 months and was a huge success. Bill along with the rest of the team got a bonus, a nice recognition dinner and some added vacation time.  The problem was that Jill had to take on Bills work load while he was on the 8 month ERP project.  She ended up working a lot of extra hours because of the added work load.  Jill received no recognition nor compensation.  Needless to say, she was not highly engaged after that.

Recognition and awards can be a double edge sword if not thought out.  However, I do not want any company to stop recognition.  Even good solid, well thought out programs can cause somebody to have hard feelings once in a while.  If your company consistently, fairly and frequently gives opportunity for all employees to receive recognition, then the occasional “kitten crushers” will be forgiven.

Employee Engagement during a Recession

Posted by: Mary Gorski Posted Date: 09/15/2009

While many are saying that the recession has “bottomed out”, most experts also believe that the unemployment rate is not going to improve soon.   Your employees are probably feeling fairly lucky to have a job, and they aren’t going to leave on their own anytime soon.  With employees more anxious about keeping their jobs and with little threat of them looking elsewhere, one might think that productivity should not be a concern.  However keeping your employees engaged could be a bigger problem than you think.

Employees may be experiencing a variety of fears and emotions today.   Most of your employees have not gone through anything like this economic time.   Not only are they afraid of losing their job, but they also know that today’s job market is tough and getting another job could take months.  Even if they like the job they have now, they still may feel trapped; this could cause additional stress or resentment.  Fear, resentment and, frustration are not emotions that are conducive to high engagement. 

It is as important now as it ever was to work on employee engagement.  These economic times are presenting some unique challenges and deciding to do nothing could backfire.  Here are some constructive things that could improve engagement and productivity.

  • Timely and honest communication should be a priority.
  • Promote a feeling of “we are in this together”.  Make sure the workforce knows that you understand and emphasis with their concerns. 
  • Focus on critical business goals:  This can help give your employees a sense of control as they can direct their efforts to improve business performance and give them more security.
  • Additional Training: Training opportunities will focus your employees on empowerment rather than helplessness. 
  • Have some fun:  A pizza party once in awhile or some other fun activity can be inexpensive, but a great way to keep moral up.  Having fun with your employees is a great way to improve engagement.

Actually when you think about it, the above items are good to do all the time.   Employee engagement is a year round effort; don’t take time off because there is recession.

What Happens When Your Workforce is Disengaged?

Posted by: Mary Gorski Posted Date: 09/01/2009

You’ve probably heard about Dave Carrols experience with United Airlines.  Dave is a musician with a music band called “Sons of Maxwell”.  Below is an excerpt explaining the incident from his website:

“In the spring of 2008, Sons of Maxwell were traveling to Nebraska for a one-week tour and my Taylor guitar was witnessed being thrown by United Airlines baggage handlers in Chicago. I discovered later that the $3500 guitar was severely damaged. They didn’t deny the experience occurred but for nine months the various people I communicated with put the responsibility for dealing with the damage on everyone other than themselves and finally said they would do nothing to compensate me for my loss. So I promised the last person to finally say “no” to compensation (Ms. Irlweg) that I would write and produce three songs about my experience with United Airlines and make videos for each to be viewed online by anyone in the world…”

The first video created a viral explosion that rocked the corporate foundations of United Airlines.  The video to date has over 5 million views, the incident (and video) was covered on a number of major television network shows, it was on various local television and radio stations plus thousands of internet articles, blogs, news paper stories and social networking sites.  From United Airlines standpoint, this was a huge PR disaster.  United Airline subsequently made financial reparations to the band, and is reviewing its procedures and employee training and “use this incident as a learning experience for improving customer service”.  One wonders if United may be reviewing its employee engagement level.

Employee engagement is the workforce’s emotional connection to their company’s business metrics.   I assume that customer satisfaction and proper baggage handling would be considered a critical metric for an airline.  The baggage handlers were witnessed “tossing” an expensive guitar.  How engaged were these baggage handlers?  To be fair, since I did not personally witness the incident, I can’t comment on their level of engagement. (The video did not paint a kind picture).  How engaged were the various airline personal that the musician talked to?  The video paints them as disinterested and not helpful.  Maybe I am being unfair to United (we don’t know all the facts), but it appears that they possibly have an employee engagement issue.

In the world of Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, blogs etc, the potential for PR damage from bad customer service is significant.  A few years ago, this incident would never have gotten media attention that it received today.

Two learning points

1. Customer satisfaction is more critical now than ever for a company’s survival, one bad incident has the capability to blow up into a viral nightmare.  

2.  A business is not going to have a high level of customer satisfaction unless it has a highly engaged workforce.  The two go hand in hand, if your employees don’t care about your business, they are not going to give exceptional service to your customers. 

By the way, after United made reparations, Dave Carroll did put out a You Tube Video that acknowledges the effort.  So far that video has been seen around three hundred thousand times, about 5% of the viewers who saw the first video.  Bad news travels a lot faster on the internet than good news.

In case you haven’t seen the first video you can view it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo

Employee Engagement: Putting the Pieces Together

Posted by: Mary Gorski Posted Date: 08/26/2009

Over the last several weeks, our postings have focused on employee engagement.  We believe that employee engagement is the most critical element to workforce productivity, but there are many pieces of this puzzle that need to fit. 

Employee Engagement is the emotional attachment that your employees have to your business success.  A highly engaged employee is passionate about her work and is striving to improve business performance.  In order to have a highly engaged workforce, many factors come into play:

  • Right Person in the Right Job:  An employee can’t be highly engaged unless they are passionate about what they do.  This means that behavior traits, thinking patterns, occupational interests, aptitudes and skill sets are consistent with the job.
  • Organization:  Smart companies are proactively addressing engagement by changing their own job environment and doing more to involve their employees. They are taking steps to profile their workplace and develop a plan to build a highly motivated workforce, empowering its managers to increase their effectiveness and solidify its organizations ability to compete now and in the future.  In order to have a highly engaged workforce, you the business owner or top leader must be actively involved with this process.

  • Leadership:  Engagement can’t take place unless your leadership (frontline as well as top management) behavior is cultivating employee engagement.  The number one reason employees give for leaving a job is their immediate supervisor.  Having the wrong leaders can result in unproductive conflicts, miscommunications and even sabotage.

  • Measurement and Feedback:  The expression goes “you can’t manage what you don’t measure”.  You need to be measuring the critical elements of employee engagement and how it is affecting employee performance.  Employees need regular feedback on their own performance and how it relates to the entire organization. 

What is the payback of having a highly engaged workforce?  Businesses with highly engaged workforces enjoy a tremendous advantage over their competitors.

o On Average, they enjoy an 86% higher customer satisfaction level

o They have 70% better employee retention

o They are 70% more likely to have higher productivity

o They have better safety records

o They enjoy higher profitability

o They deliver a greater earnings per share to their stockholders

Creating employee engagement is not easy and can’t be done overnight, but it is probably the best thing you can do to improve your business profits.

More information on employee engagment

Using Facebook to Enhance Employee Engagement

Posted by: Mary Gorski Posted Date: 08/18/2009

Everyone has heard of Facebook by now, and many companies are starting to use this and other social media sites.  The most common reasons are:

1.  Promoting Business

2.  Managing Reputation

3.  Branding

Another reason that can dove tail right into your other social networking strategy is employee engagement. 

We are not touting Facebook as the only or even main avenue for creating engagement.  Social Media won’t do anything for employee engagement unless it fits into a comprehensive strategy that includes a number of other facets, but it can be a fairly inexpensive and fun way to keep your employees in the loop with what is happening at your business.   It also will allow them some interaction.

There are 250,000,000 users on Facebook with demographics that are not limited to the “younger age group”.  In fact, the 55 and older crowd is one of the fastest growing segments.  It would be surprising if at least half of employees did not have a Facebook account.

With Facebook, the appropriate engagement technique is to create a Company Page- do NOT use your personal Facebook as a method of communicating and updating your employees.  The reason is simple; using your personal Facebook page can potentially expose personal information that you don’t necessarily need to share with your employees and the opposite is true as well.  By creating a company page, you have more tools to maintain good communication without risking the sharing of too much information in either direction.

What are things you can post on your company Facebook account?

  • Company Events
  • Videos
  • Photos
  • Comments and general announcements

The main idea is to share company information in ways that are interesting.  The sharing experience will hopefully increase the emotional attachment of your employees to your business success.  At the same time you can promote your business to customers.

Some advice:
  • Keep posts professional and courteous.  Going into a rant on the future of health care is not appropriate for your company page.
  • Be consistent and persistent – You should try to post at least weekly, better if daily.
  • Don’t post company information ONLY on Facebook, consider the employees who don’t or won’t use Facebook.
  • Respect your employee’s privacy – If you are going to mention an employee by name – be sure to get permission.
  • Promote the company Facebook page inside your company – doesn’t do any good if your employees aren’t aware that the company has a Facebook page.

Finally, in addition to enhancing communication with your existing employees, you can also promote your company to future employees.  The generation that has just entered the work force relies greatly on the internet for collaboration and communication.  Having a Facebook page can be a great recruiting tool.

Is Your Leader a Bully?

Posted by: Mary Gorski Posted Date: 08/05/2009

While supervisors who bully are far less tolerated today than a few decades ago, they are still out there.  They tend to be found more in middle management than toward the top, and they are abundant in small companies.  This may seem silly to ask, but why don’t you want to have bullies in your organization?  Here are some common sense answers:

  • While some bullying techniques may occasionally get short term results, you are at best getting compliance.  The workers motivation is primarily to keep their boss happy or off their back.  Lost will be any emotional attachment to company performance.  In the long run, productivity stagnates.
  • A bully’s motivation is not usually aligned with business performance.  They are often on ego power trips trying to prove their importance.  So even if employees are 100% complying with their supervisor’s wishes, the results may not benefit your business.
  • Bullying creates resentment and often results in backlash behavior, employees lose all emotional attachment to company success – they become disengaged.
  • Eventually you will lose your talent as they will not tolerate working in a “bullying” environment..

Leadership behavior is critical to fostering engagement in your organization.  It is vital that you develop, cultivate and choose leaders whose leadership style is consistent with your business objectives.  

Bullies are far more prevalent in small businesses than large corporations, probably because small businesses do not have the professional resources and sophistication in-house to deal and monitor with leadership behavior. What can small businesses do to thwart and remove bullies from their organization?

A good leadership development program will assess your current leadership styles, identify undesirable behavior patterns and establish programs to correct problems and develop behaviors that foster engagement in your organization.  MG Assessments has some on-line programs that will fit a small business budget.  They have been implemented with great success in thousands of small businesses.   Contact us or go to our leadership development program section on our website.

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Employee Engagement in Times of Crisis

Posted by: Mary Gorski Posted Date: 07/30/2009

I think we all remember exactly what we were doing on 9-11 when we first heard the terrible news:  Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon.  Most of us were at work when it happened.  Confusion, anxiety, anger, fear and more was prevalent that day.

 

What was happening at your workplace during this time?  How did you react with your employees?

 

 I know of one CEO at a small company that clearly reacted in the wrong way.  Concerned about the lack of work being done, he went around turning off radios and briskly telling employees to get back to work and do what they are paid to do.   The CEO clearly did not understand the longer term consequences of these types of action.  People were concerned about friends, relatives and fellow countrymen.  They were worried about more attacks, what was going to happen in their city, what their commute home was going to be like.  The anxiety level that day was extremely high.  The reaction of that CEO spread across the company to every department and every shift.  The message loud and clear was “I don’t care about you”.  As you might imagine, the employee engagement at that company was very low.

 

A different approach might have garnered a totally different reaction.  What if the CEO called an employee wide meeting and communicated the most recent news, while urging everyone to stay calm?  Even offer that people could take extra time to make phone calls if they were worried about their loved ones. What if he promised that the company would be monitoring the situation and let everyone know if anything else happened?  Finally he could have shared his concern and emphasized with the employees.  This behavior clearly would show the work force that he cared and hopefully reduce the anxiety level. 

 

While we hope a terrorist attack will never happen again, current events that potentially effect the well being of your workforce create important opportunities to improve engagement with your work force.  Not every event deserves a special or urgent meeting, But brief written or verbal communications can go along way to show your workforce that you care about their well being.  With just a little bit of effort, a company can:

  1. Ensure that the workforce has accurate information
  2. Communicate  what the company is doing relating to the event (if appropriate)
  3. Share concern
  4. Insure that employees are aware of resources available (company and non-company)
  5. Offer flexibility if circumstances provide hardship.

 

Here are just a few recent events that offered some opportunities for communication

 

  • The 35W bridge collapse (if company was local to Minneapolis MN)
  • The salmonella outbreak from peanuts
  • The swine flu outbreak
  • The recent economic downturn

MG Assessments just published a white paper on employee engagement relating to the stock market downswing called Panic is not an Investment Strategy.  I recommend that you read this paper as it gives important incites on employee engagement and what a business can do during times of crisis.  While this recession may be showing some signs of recovery, there will never be a shortage of important events that impact your workforce. 

 

Click here for more information on employee engagement.

What makes a good leader? (Part II)

Posted by: Mary Gorski Posted Date: 07/16/2009

The ultimate measure of leadership is results, long term and short term.  Successful leaders as a group, have a wide variety of personalities and nuances, but most good leaders possess or develop the following traits.

Vision:  Good leaders have the ability to formulate a concrete image of a desired end state.  They can eloquently communicate this end state and discuss the gaps that need to be filled.  The vision may not be extremely detailed, but it is constant and clear.  The leader has confidence in that vision and is willing to stay on course, even during difficult times.

Pragmatic:  While setting “stretch goals” and lofty end states is admirable and even necessary, a good leader has to understand the every day practical elements and constraints of the organization.  If there is only a focus on the glorious end state and no direction or understanding of the practical elements needed to achieve the vision, the organization will only get flustered and lose faith.

People Oriented:   This is a little like saying that water must be wet, but leaders need to connect with people, and people need to connect with the leader.  The leader should be able to inspire and motivate and be compassionate and caring.   People need to like their leader, but not necessarily like everything that the leader is pushing for. 

Ethical:  Good leaders hold themselves to high standards in terms of integrity and honesty.  If you can’t trust your leadership, you aren’t going to follow.  Sometimes leaders are faced with challenges and dilemmas.  Leaders who are perceived as being less than totally ethical will rapidly lose the engagement of the organization.

Knowledgeable:  The expression “leaders are readers” was popular a while back.  The leader should not be the subject mater expert with all work related items, but good leaders have a well rounded knowledge base that extends beyond the immediate business.  A good leader spends time reading about a wide variety of subjects and is open to learning new things.  This knowledge base helps give leaders balance and judgment. 

Humility:  A good leader understands that she isn’t perfect and is not afraid to admit her short comings.  A good leader will be open to feedback (sometimes very negative).   Good leaders will seek council particularly in areas that they know that they are weak in.  Good leaders are constantly striving to develop their leadership skills and are willing to assess their strengths and weaknesses.

Leadership is something that can be objectively assessed and developed.  For more information on this area see MG Assessments leadership development program.

What Makes a Good Leader?

Posted by: Mary Gorski Posted Date: 07/02/2009

In the last blog we talked about the importance of having a good front line leader.  So what makes a good leader?    The next several blogs will be devoted to qualities that a good leader should have.

 

First let’s discuss the environment or organization rather than the qualities of a good leader.

 

Having strong leaders is definitely a must for an organization to be successful, but is it sufficient?  Consider the Detroit Lions.  They have not won a division title for 15 years; they lost over 14 games twice in the last 5 seasons.  They have gone through at least 5 head coaches in the last 10 years.  Was every coach they hired a bad coach?  Probably not, in fact one of their coaches took a different team deep into the playoffs.

 

Now consider the Pittsburg Steelers.  They have won more super bowls than any other NFL team, and they have done it with three different coaches.  Maybe the Steelers are better at choosing coaches than the Lions. But I think it is more likely that other factors are needed for success than just the head coach.  If you look closely at professional teams in various sports, you will see that many teams win year in and year out with different coaches and different personnel, while other teams continue to struggle in mediocrity and go through a slew of head coaches and managers.

 

The business world is similar; your leaders are important, but they need support.  They need a good staff, they need support from above, and they need resources and tools to thrive.   Your entire organization is instrumental to the success of its leaders.  If your organization has all the elements of success, your good leaders with thrive.  Without a solid organization and system, your company may end up being a revolving door for personnel as one leader after another falters; just like the Detroit Lions. 

 

As a precursor to reviewing your leadership, take a look at your organization and ask yourself two questions.

  1. Do you have the right people in the right places? -  People who are not in the right positions or are not compatible with the organization are low performers, but they can drag your organization down.
  2. Do you have an engaged organization?  Do your people care about the business?  

 

Your leadership question is entwined in the above questions, but you should try to separate them so you can identify the root problems.  It is possible that your organizations biggest issue is leadership, but you need to assess that before making assumptions.  Doing an organization assessment will help reveal the core problems. Once your core problems are identified, you can incorporate your leadership enhancement program into your overall strategy.

                                                                  

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