Owning Engagement in Your Workplace

We’re going on well over fifteen years of thinking about employee engagement in organizations.  And after years of surveying employees and rolling organizational results into a macro look at our country, the results today have not changed much from when we first started the analysis.  What we know is companies that lose disengaged employees often see the negative impact of having lower profitability and higher recruiting expenses.

From a company perspective, there are always things that can be done to reach out to employees and make them feel valued.  What has changed in the last fifteen years is using technology to bolster engagement by creating solutions to aid in stronger organizational connections.  These can include solutions to:

  • Encourage mentor relationships- Employees who feel mentored know that someone in the organization cares about their development and career path.  This mentor relationship also creates an outlet for continuous communication, and feedback, so that the employee has a strong connection point.
  • Communicate more, not less- Being transparent, even in economic downturns, builds trust with employees.  They will be more likely to hang in there for the long run.  Additionally, letting an employee know how valuable they are to the company is key.
  • Allow and encourage some fun in the work day- Fun at work = employees who don’t dread being there.  You don’t have to be playing ping pong or foosball all day at work, but definitely encourage a culture of being able to step away from the desk to chat and congregate.  It also means providing technology to make collaboration and sharing easier.  And beyond the technology, having senior leaders who will use and champion the technology so that employees feel compelled to use it too.

But it’s not just about the company driving employee engagement.  In many organizations, employee engagement is looked at as the relationship between the employee and the company.  In actuality, it goes far beyond this and is the relationships that an individual employee builds with colleagues and clients that truly indicate how likely the employee is to stay with the organization.  Engagement is also a set of behaviors an employee must embrace in order to make the connections that will be lasting.  So, what can you do as an employee to build that relationship?

Ways to foster your own engagement

  • Volunteer to do more
  • Be more active (in the group, the topic, etc.)
  • Look for ways to improve, then implement them
  • Take ownership for what goes well and where you need to improve
  • Get “fired up” and use your passion
  • Be loyal
  • Build trusting relationships

The take away for me is it’s about focusing on the relationship, not the individual inputs  and levers.

What do you think?  What would you add to the list?

3 Things to Avoid on Employee Appreciation Day

*Sharing from the dusty archives…

I have to admit,  I am not a fan of fake holidays.  I always figured if anyone in my life needed to use a made-up reason to say they love me (Valentines Day) or appreciate me (Mother’s Day), then they really don’t know me at all.  I would much rather have someone tell me they love or appreciate me on a random Tuesday then sending me a dozen roses that cost $150 on one of those days.  As an aside, this cynicism likely comes from working at a florist in my teenage years and seeing men forget their loved one until the last minute, then rush in to buy said $150 roses just to stay out of trouble.

candy_jar_tootsieWell, we are on the eve of yet another made up holiday…..Employee Appreciation Day.  It’s coming to an office near you on March 4th.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a BIG supporter of telling your team and all your employees how much you appreciate them.  I am a fan of hand written notes, emails, phone calls, taking them out to lunch and more.  What I am not a fan of is the leader who never tells their employee how much they appreciate them, then only does on March 4th as a way to think it’s “all good” for the year.

There are already articles and letters floating around from various organizations telling leaders how they can recognize their employees easily and with almost no thought at all.  It is unreal.  I’m here to say right now that if you are a leader, it is supposed to be hard, not easy.  It is supposed to take time, you are supposed to give feedback and you should put thought into it.  Here are 3 things you SHOULD do on March 4th, Employee Appreciation Day to turn the tides on the “easy” approaches that are not meaningful:

  1. Form Letters-  First, do NOT send the form letters full of jargon and business-speak.  At least, do not send them in the spirit intended.  Instead, print out the letter with all the (insert employee name here, insert project here, etc.) left in.  Then, hand write a note at the bottom sincerely telling the employee how much you appreciate them and that you’d never send them a form letter like the one the note is written on.  It will be quirky and unique.  Another option is to call the team together and start reading the form letter mentioned above to them.  As they look at you completely perplexed, stop reading and tell them they mean more to you than a form letter could ever say.  Go around the room, in front of their peers, thanking them and giving examples of what each person does to bring value to the team.
  2. Donuts-  I know, you’re probably thinking that Krispy Kreme or Duncan Donuts is RIGHT on your way to work and you can grab a couple dozen from the drive-thru.  Don’t do it!  Instead, do some reconnaissance today and find out what kind of candy, gum, or healthy snack each team member loves.  Go to the store and buy each employee’s favorite thing.  It will take more effort, that much is true.  The cost will not be more though and I guarantee that a sincere thank you as you hand the person their favorite snack will be well worth the effort.  I once had a boss bring me a huge canister of Tootsie Rolls “just because” I was working hard.  Since that’s one of my favorite candies, it was a wonderful surprise and I knew she valued me.
  3. Gift Cards- We’ve all heard the expression that money can’t buy you love.  The same holds true with  a thank you.  Sure, a $5 gift card for coffee is nice, but it’s the easy way out.  Instead, do a more personal act of service.  Something like asking each staff member if they would like something to drink, then going to your company kitchen or the local store, or even coffee shop, and picking it up or making it for them.  It becomes an act of service and for a boss to do something nice that makes them go out of their way is much more meaningful to the employee.

So, there you have it.  Three ways you can make a more meaningful impact in the way you thank your staff.  Oh, and by the way….thank YOU for wanting to do more to recognize them.  It takes a great leader to want to go the extra mile!

HR Happy Hour #231: Employee Financial Wellness

HR Happy Hour 231 – Employee Financial Wellness

Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

Guest: Steve Wilbourne, CEO, Questis

Listen HERE

This week, join Steve Boese and me as we discuss the increasingly important topic of employee financial wellness and well-being with guest Steve Wilbourne, CEO of Questis, a software and services provider of employee financial wellness technology and resources.

We talked with Steve W. about the issues many employees are facing with financial planning, financial readiness,  unforeseen expenses or challenges, and the benefits to organizations and to employees in providing more modern, personalized, and affordable tools for employees to help manage their finances.

In addition, Steve (the host Steve), made a semi-serious pitch for the return of employee pensions, I shared a preview for the widely anticipated HR Happy Hour Oscars show coming soon, and Steve shamelessly appealed for some big-time corporate sponsors to come on board, (are you listening Delta and Dr. Pepper?).

You can listen to the show on the show page HERE, or by using the widget player below (Emaill and RSS subscribers will need to click through)

This was an interesting and informative show about employee financial wellness, many thanks to Steve Wilbourne from Questis for joining us. To learn more about Questis, please go towww.myquestis.com.

Thanks for listening and remember to add the HR Happy Hour Show to your podcast subscriptions in iTunes, Stitcher Radio, or any of the major podcast apps. Just search for ‘HR Happy Hour’ to subscribe.

Independence, Dependence and the Future of Work

Steve Boese and I recorded a new episode of HR Happy Hour that focused on a hot topic in the HR world- the difference between Independent Contractors and employees.  It then evolved into a full discussion on how the future mix of contractors will impact not only HR, but Talent Acquisition and the organization in general.  Be sure to check out episode #218 HERE, or using the widget player below:

Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio


This was a really fun and lively conversation and we hope you enjoy the show!  Many thanks to our friends at Equifax Workforce Solutions for sponsoring us.  If you haven’t checked out what they are up to, please be sure to click through.

The discussion  Steve and I had reminded me of a post I wrote several years ago about the difference of being independent and dependent in general.  I think it still applies today, and maybe even to a greater degree than it did then.
“Independence means rebellion, risk, tenacity, innovation, and resistance to convention.”

revolution-global-voicesI first heard this quote during a conversation with Steve Boese.  He was reading the book ‘Slanted and Enchanted: The Evolution of Indie Culture‘ and it struck him as a meaningful quote.  Since then, he has written about it on his blog and even had the author, Kaya Oakes, on the HR Happy Hour show to talk more about independent thinking and indie culture.  What’s interesting is that the quote keeps rolling around in my head and coming back to me.

Why?  Because as much as I like to think I’m independent, I believe that as humans, we gravitate to being dependent.  It’s our natural state of being.  Although, it seems as if admitting that you are dependent is equivalent to career suicide.  However, as long as I can be influential in a positive way while still feeling support, I’m content depending on other people.  If I can be persuasive and respected while collaborating and my voice is still heard, I’m ok with dependence.

Dependence CAN be a positive experience.

It’s that feeling of being cared for or knowing that someone has your back.  The best teams are built off this interdependence as a core value.  It’s the way I feel when you read this blog.  Regardless if you agree or disagree with something I write, I still feel your support and I am in a dependent relationship with you.

Dependence is ultimately what drives business.  It’s being able to work together to meet someone else’s needs.  It’s the backbone of the economy.  So, why is it so attractive to tell someone that you are independent? Here are a couple reasons:

  • It’s the “cool” thing to do- Who doesn’t want to claim that they are part of the indie culture in their industry.  There are times when we feel like breaking out on our own is the ultimate way to be cool.  We can do our own thing, make all our own decisions, take greater risks, and ultimately, not have to rely on anyone else to make things happen.
  • It feels fluid– Being able to be agile and go with the flow more quickly is an appealing model for many of us.  However, with that also comes great risk that a majority of businesses that we deal with have bureaucracy that prevents or hinders their agility, thus affecting ours to some degree if we are their vendor.
  • Entrepreneurial spirit– Like many of the founding forefathers in US history, being able to have the ability to be independent and start out on a new course, over uncharted ground, is exciting.  That spirit is appealing.

I argue that at the end of the day, even the most independent person is still predominantly reliant on others whether that be as customers, as those that provide financial funding, or those people in your circle that act as your advisory board.

What do you think?  Is it ever really possible to be independent?  Or, it is the spirit that initially drives certain people who then ultimately become dependent like the rest of us?  Weigh in over in the comments section.

Do You Measure Up? Competing With Someone Else’s Skills

I remember how it felt to be ten years old.  I was one of the kids in the class that most kids liked.  I wasn’t too bossy, too silly or too needy. I was generally happy and was probably most known for helping others.  I tried not to be mean to other kids and I think I was fairly successful, at least most of the time.  When I look back at report cards, I was always described as “talkative and creative”.  I guess some things never change.

I also had friends who were a couple years older than me, so no matter how smart I was or how well I did something, there was often an older friend who was just that much better than I was.  Age is a funny thing because to a ten year old, even two or three years can mean a lifetime of difference in someone’s experience level.  Back then, I could always find someone with skills I envied.

I suppose time hasn’t changed much.  I still see those individuals in my life who can do things better than I can.

Perspective Helps You Measure Up

The difference between ten year old Trish and the person I am today is my interpretation of people who are more skilled.  Now, intstead of pangs of jealousy, I can either choose to just admire the person for what they accomplish or I can choose to build those same skills myself.

Too often in the workplace, we find employees stuck in the jealousy phase.  What can we do to focus their attention on either admiration or personal skill building?  Here are a few we can suggest:

  • Find a mentor at work and ask questions about how they learned the expertise they have
  • Take specific classes to build the skills you need
  • At work, ask to be assigned projects that will challenge you in new ways
  • Look for sources online like the Learn New Skills Blog

How do you learn or improve skills you have?  How do you do the same for your team?

Translating Predicted Trends Into People Experiences In The Workplace

I found a fascinating info-graphic yesterday that not only captured many of the cultural highlights of 2012, it also attempts to predict what trends will be in 2013.  It makes me wonder what potential people implications these could have for organizations.

For example, the ideas of Sustain a Culture, My Connected Life, and Extraordinary Experience can all be translated into people experiences at work.  How?

  • Sustain A Culture-  The whole idea of moving toward a zero waste solution, taking recycling to a whole new level.
  • My Connected Life-  Having cars, vending machines, and other machines we interact with know our names.
  • Extraordinary Experience-  Creating a total submersion experience for customers into a brand.

Sustain A Culture

How can this play out in your workplace?  Well many companies already have some green initiatives   What companies don’t tend to do is look at how to move toward a “zero waste” mentality.  I’d venture to guess that anyone reading this blog could do more to:

  • Promote use of electronic documents
  • Discontinue use of disposable cups, plates, or utensils at work
  • Reduce electricity use at work by turning off overhead lights and using smaller, energy-efficient lamps and bulbs
  • Contacting companies you do business with and requesting electronic mail vs. standard mail
  • Promote recycling by using any money from the effort to reward the employees
  • Reduce packaging for items you mail

My Connected Life

  • Create personalized employee apps for work-related needs
  • Start or increase use of internal social communities for increased collaboration
  • Find ways to incorporate personalized wellness initiatives designed for needs of each employee

Extraordinary Experience

  • Use the immersive approach to bring candidates on-board
  • Share as much of your corporate brand during the recruitment process
  • Come up with a customized approach to on-boarding.  How will the employee look, feel and sound working at your company?
  • Use branded technology messages as well as branded items to welcome new hires.


Using Social Media: Creating Podcasts For Your Employees

Earlier this week, I wrote 10 Easy Ways to Build Social Media Into Your HR Practice.  Now I am sharing specifics on each of the ideas I suggested.  These are written with beginners in mind.

Today, we’re going to learn how to create podcasts for your employees.  There are so many employees who prefer a quick hit of information in verbal form.  With hundreds of email coming in each day, key HR messages can tend to get buried and possibly never opened.  When thinking about your internal communication strategy, it’s key to build in other ways to have the key messages heard.

Create podcasts for employees- What information do you share?

HR is tasked with communicating throughout the year on a variety of topics.  Consider:

  • Leadership meetings and updates
  • Annual benefit enrollment
  • Performance review process
  • Merit increase information
  • Local office initiatives
  • Charitable giving updates and opportunities

How to get started

Firs, have a conversation with your Marketing leader.  It is possible the company already has a preferred method of creating and sharing information via podcasting.  If not, there are many online services. These services vary by ease of use, level of security, ability to share on a company site, cost, and ads included.  You’ll want to start by thinking about those aspects before deciding on whether you want to be self-hosted or use a third-party site.  Here are some of the options:

  • PodOmatic  This is a free service that offers both podcasts and minicasts.  They have free options as well as “pro” options so you can determine the level you need based on your requirements.
  • BlogTalkRadio–  Another popular site for it’s ease of use, BlogTalkRadio provides many options for either free or paid hosted podcasts.  They are easy to share on your website or via social media.  The instructions are clear and you can get started in just a few minutes.  A great option for beginners.
  • LibSyn (Liberated Syndication)-  One of the largest platforms to host podcasts, this site has a great feature of offering  the option for mobile apps for your podcasts.

There are many other options out there and you can always choose to self-host.  That option is obviously more technical in nature, so talk with your IT department before taking on this type of project.

Stay tuned next week for more tips on how you can incorporate social media into your HR practice.

You Incorporated: From Employee to Entrepreneur

In my recent interview with Angela Hills, Executive Vice President from Pinstripe , we focused on leaders having a talent mindset as they look to the future.  In addition, we also talked about the concept of the responsibility each employee needs to take with regard to their career evolution.  There is an evolution away from being an employee to being an entrepreneur within the organization.  “You Inc.”

These concepts are not new, but the application is new.  Business is now integrating the contract relationships differently.  I asked Anglea what she is seeing in organizations now that supports this idea of employees being a business within a business?  Is this something we should be encouraging?

Yes, this concept was originally introduced in the late 60’s and early 70’s. It has evolved. For a while, after Fast Company did an article about “Me &Co”, it took on a bad connotation of being all about the employee at the expense of the company. But, when done right, this is about being individuals being in charge of their careers and their futures. This is good for people and good for business. We want people who know who they are, have a strategy, and are passionate about executing on it. That might mean that they’ll move on when they need to but it also means you’ll get more contribution while they are there.

There is no doubt that we are also seeing many organizations rethink how they even think about staffing. The future holds for us a standard where fewer workers of the typical organization are full time, traditional employees, more are contractors or “come and go as their skills are needed” type people – a network of talent that surrounds the business, and other services will continue to be outsourced to provide organizations with ultimate flexibility. This means we have all sorts of new challenges to deal with. How do we keep those people engaged? How do we ensure we have the right skills at the right time in the right place when they’re not employees? What impact will this have on our culture? The list goes on!

What do you think?  Do you agree with Angela that the approach is leaning toward individuals being part of “You, Inc.”?  

*Check out Pinstripe Talent for all your recruitment process outsourcing needs!