Three Big Questions for 2012

Another turn of season, and now we’re in 2012. Happy New Year! I wish you prosperity, joy and contentment in the months to come.

I truly believe 2012 will be a good year, even though we are entering the year with many questions. Is the Great Recession finally over? Is this the year the economy will turn around? The year the unemployment rate will drop?

At the time of this writing, consumers are spending more, unemployment has eased a little, and we have just received word that over the past two years manufacturing has seen the strongest two-year growth since the late 1990s.

It’s impossible to say that this good news will last, however. The upswing could be as elusive as the Vikings 2011 season. (You knew I’d get back to the Vikings, didn’t you?)

Quite frankly, there was little to cheer about as a Vikings fan other than Jared Allen, who had a remarkable individual season.

What went right? Not much. What went wrong? A lot. We started the season with great hopes, but after blowing three consecutive double-digit leads, doubt crept in. And now we’re looking back at a 3-13 season.

But that's not what I want to talk to you about. You know about the Vikings' lousy record. I want to talk to you about what the organization can do going forward and what we in business can learn from that.

There are holes in the Vikings roster, no doubt, and when all is said and done, we fans will see changes.

In fact, as I write this, the Vikings are holding position meetings at Winter Park to review all their players.

But what if, instead of looking at these meetings as position meetings, they look at them as an opportunity to improve engagement at every level in their organization?

What I mean is this: Rather than throw new people into the mix like darts at the wall hoping they'll stick where they want or need them, what if they went a step further doing a few things that will cement all their players' productivity? Things proactive businesses do to ensure success. Things that will raise the engagement level within their organization.

Proactive companies typically take action to improve employee engagement at three levels: the organization level, manager level and employee level. And the Vikings — and all of us in business and with employees — can take these same actions.

It really comes down to asking the right questions. Here are three you can ask yourself that will lead to the answers you need to improve engagement in your organization:


How can we provide clear vision and develop a people culture?
Look at your vision, values and strategy. Does how you want to shape your company align with how you are shaping it? If not, why not?

Top businesses know that improving employee engagement starts with precise strategic plans and priorities, and then clearly communicating those plans.

Further, they know that great strategies, while important, don’t guarantee success.
At the end of the day, business success is about people… people instilled with focus, passion and a desire to adopt and execute strategic goals; people working together as a team to achieve a common purpose, a common goal.

So along with communicating your vision, commit to developing your people. You will find that your actions in fostering a “people culture” will speak louder than your words when it comes to improving employee morale.


Have we fit the right people to the right leadership positions?
Driving employee engagement falls to senior leaders, managers and supervisors. But if your leaders aren’t able to instill enthusiasm for their work and the company in your people, you will never successfully foster engagement in your organization.

Clearly, therefore, your leaders must fit their leadership roles.

Appropriate assessments will show you how well your existing leaders fit their jobs. And once you have your leaders in place, you can help them learn how to deal with their employees.


Do we have the right employees in the right positions?
There is no one right way to increase engagement levels. What works in one company may not work in another.

On the other hand, we know that job satisfaction directly links to job fit in any company. In other words, the better employees suit their positions, the more satisfied and engaged they become.

So it goes without saying: to increase engagement at the employee level, make sure you have the right employees in the right positions where they can thrive and grow.

Here's the bottom line: Disengaged employees are 53 percent less productive than their engaged counterparts. They misrepresent an organization and its culture. They negatively impact the bottom line.

Which means if your employees are disengaged, you are missing many opportunities and leaving a lot of money on the table. Just like the Vikings at the end of the 2011 season.

I have no doubt the Vikings will try to mend their personnel holes and return to a winning record in 2012. They may succeed. But they'd have a better chance if they'd look at engagement in their entire organization.

Tips: Six Steps to Improving Engagement in Your Company
Engaged employees are enthusiastic. "In gear," they use their talents to make a difference and contribute to business success.

Are your employees engaged? Do they eagerly come to work each day? Are they committed to your organization's success?

Take these six steps to improve engagement in your company:


1) Identify your target employees

Target employees are those who enjoy a solid job fit. They are also generally your top performers. To identify your target employees, assess all your employees to learn their cognitive skills, job-related behaviors and occupational interests. You can then use this information as benchmarks to identify the best workers for any position.


2) Meet your target employees' needs 
Identify your target employees' compensation needs. This information along with creativity and a willingness to change will help you recruit and retain top performers.


3) Stretch your employees 
Research shows that managers are up to four times more engaged than frontline employees. Why? Because they are more challenged on the job. 

To increase engagement, provide employees with stretch goals. Additionally, avoid micromanagement and let employees learn from their mistakes.


4) Stimulate your employees 

To remain engaged, employees need continuous stimulation. Increase their involvement by giving them projects, additional responsibilities, and opportunities for career development and for growth — anything that will challenge their abilities.



5) Train your employees

Contrary to what you might believe, when you provide employees with more qualifications to add to their resumes, they are more likely to stay with your company. Employee engagement increases when employees receive regular training, especially if training is focused on “soft skills" rather than technical skills.

6) Listen to your employees 

The more input you allow your employees, the more engaged in their work and committed to the company they become. Ask your employees: 

• What can be improved? 
• What do we need more or less of? 
• What should we start or stop doing? 
• What do you need?

Your Solution Toolbox: How to Get a Detailed View of Engagement Across Your Workforce

Measuring What Matters

Engaged employees are:
 • excited and enthusiastic
 • focused on their work
 • prone to give high levels of discretionary effort
 • emotionally involved with the company
 • mentally involved with the company
 • focused; do not distract easily
 • highly productive

How do you find them? I suggest an employee survey; specifically, Profiles International's Workplace Engagement Survey (WES).

WES will help you investigate whether your employees align with your corporate values. It will measure to what degree your employees connect with their work and feel committed to your organization and its goals.

This measurement, in turn, will give you a detailed view of what influences engagement across your workforce. It will also statistically compare your employees to the overall working population.

And there's more. WES also measures "satisfaction with employer" and "satisfaction with manager" across your organization and gives recommendations you can use to improve.

Can you see why employee surveys are becoming a popular management tool?

If you are interested in learning more about WES, call me today at 952-322-3330 or send an email to

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