Archive | December, 2012

Loyalty and Engagement: Can You Have One Without The Other?

21 Dec

When it comes to finding ways of working with employees, management isn’t always certain which path to follow. Especially in larger corporations, it can be difficult to establish a one-on-one relationship with every subordinate, but failing that, employee self-service software and other human resources tools can help give a peek into the inner thoughts and desires of staff members. Using those motivations, leaders can better determine how to direct incentive plans and meet with those in need of assistance.

There are some elements of human resources analytics that may confuse even HR personnel themselves, though, such as the debate between employee loyalty and engagement strategies. Understanding each of these factors can help those in charge gain a better grasp of what they need to focus on and with whom. While not all workers will be engaged, they could still be loyal, or even the other way around.

The Engagement Puzzle
On its own, employee engagement can be hard to understand. Having engaged staff means a workforce that knows about corporate culture and how to realize it, as well as their own part in making that process happen. The best bosses are those who keep open dialogues with their teams, being open and sharing honestly the things that are happening around the office and that directly impact each individual.

When workers are left in the dark and feel isolated from their supervisors, they tend to get the impression that they don’t matter in the greater scheme of the corporation. This is an idea that must be squashed if companies are going to encourage better employee engagement. Bringing workers into the discussion will show them that they truly do matter.

Another option is creating internal means of communicating with other members of the business at all levels, such as allowing email and instant messaging. There are also message board options that companies can utilize. Similar to Twitter and other social media networks but isolated from such an open online context, these resources keep workers up-to-date on corporate happenings, making them feel more a part of a community.

Loyalty in the Workplace
Similar to engagement, employee loyalty practices require that management keeps open lines of communication and talk openly, regularly and honestly with members of the workforce at all different levels. Unlike engagement, though, loyalty requires building a personal interest in the well-being of a worker, whereas engagement means making them feel like an important part of the business no matter what position they hold.

It is very easy for an employee to be engaged without being loyal. A study by the IBM Institute for Business Values found that most companies believe consumers follow them on Facebook because they feel loyal to the business, but only about one-third of people agree with that statement. Most of them just want deals, the survey revealed. While these users are engaged by the page and may look at it every day, they will likely shop elsewhere if a better deal appears.

In short, HR personnel may see a lot of engaged but loosely-attached workers if bosses don’t make an effort to connect with workers in a meaningful way. Business leaders need to encourage honest dialogue and considerate conversation among all workers, as otherwise communication can seem more like noise and less an honest attempt to encourage loyalty. Just as a corporate online presence can deter consumers if it seems too much like spam, so too will employees tune out corporate messages that sound too generic.

The Race to Dashboards

19 Dec

Dashboards are to software applications what Starbucks™ is to coffee – omnipresent. In the same way it’s hard to drive into any North American town and not see one or two Starbucks (and usually across the street from one another!), it’s hard to purchase any business software application – including HR applications – and not be told about, showed about, and confused about the plethora of “dashboards” that come with it.

But – to continue the Starbucks analogy – sometimes you’re just not in the mood for coffee. Maybe what you need is a nice cold beer. Or maybe just plain water. The fact is that application dashboards have been (and continue to be) so popular that we get sold on the concept of dashboards without taking the time to identify how we want to use them – not to mention when we want to use them, and who should be using them. There’s no denying that dashboards are useful; but like a cup of hot coffee on a hot day in the summer, there are times when a traditional dashboard isn’t the best solution.

And that’s what we’re here to discuss.

Your typical dashboard is a graphic display of business information. Perhaps the most common image of a dashboard is one that shows sales trends; a line chart that goes up and down over a period of time showing the overall growth or decrease in an organization’s business. Valuable? Absolutely.

Bar and pie chart dashboards are also eagerly advertised in software applications. Sales by product, region, or salesperson are good examples of where these kinds of dashboards shine.

The preceding examples have one obvious thing in common: sales. The sales department is by far the part of an organization that most benefits from dashboards that show trends and KPIs (key performance indicators). Human resources, on the other hand, doesn’t deal with the same kind of business information as sales, and thus the need for graphically-illustrated data is substantially less.

But just because there’s not the need for graphically-illustrated data in HR, that doesn’t mean there’s not the same need for dashboards. There is. It’s just that HR typically needs a different kind of dashboard – a non-graphic one.

Think about it – a dashboard is a dynamically-updated display of critical business data; how that data is displayed is up to you. So – whereas a graphic display showing how many hours of vacation time each employee has accrued might not be all that useful, a textual display of which employees are scheduled to be out of the office this week definitely has value. Similarly, whereas a line chart that shows how many employee certifications are due to expire over the next three months has dubious benefits, a dynamic listing of those certifications – along with their expire date, cost, and employee name – would be more than a little useful.

Generally speaking, graphic dashboards are more heavily used by executives who need to be kept aware of trends and who need to look at the “big-picture” of business activities. It’s the folks beneath the executives – departmental managers and their individual employees – who are tasked with keeping on top of the day-to-day business activities. And there’s no better way to empower these people than to provide them with “in-your-face”, dynamically-updated lists of critical business activities and tasks.

So – don’t let yourself get swept away by the “eye-candy” that is all-too-often presented to you as graphic application dashboards. They do look cool, and they do have their use. But in the HR world, it’s more often the details that spell the difference between success and failure. Make sure that you can get those details to the staff who need them – and do so in a dynamic dashboard format.

After all, the right information presented in the wrong format is about as useful as a cup of iced coffee in the middle of the winter . . .

Inexpensive Ways To Improve Employee Happiness and Engagement

17 Dec

There are many roadblocks on the path to employee engagement that never fail to impede most HR personnel the first time around. As the process is refined, though, there is also the risk of staff members becoming complacent. Assuming that existing systems work now because they did in the past and failure to review these processes could be just as vital a mistake as not upgrading HRMS utilities.

With changes in technology come differences in how people work, but inherently they as individuals remain the same. It is important to use devices, alternatives in working situations and other advantages that have come to light in the human resources field to encourage more fun in the workplace while still cutting costs. There are a number of applicable solutions for businesses willing and interested in employing them.

Bring-Your-Own-Device and Work From Home

Remote working has become a major draw for corporations that both want to save money and are interested in raising employee engagement. One of the leading reasons why this strategy works so well is because consumers already own the tablets and smartphones they prefer; meaning mobile devices are a ripe resource for companies that know how to use them.

Allowing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs can present some IT hiccups, but it also increases the amount of flexibility and productivity of each worker. Using these tools properly can turn them into learning centers, information resources and mobile workhorses, putting electronic filing capabilities into the hands of individuals so they can take care of tasks immediately instead of waiting to get back to a computer.

For companies that have the option, allowing people to work from home is also an appealing possibility. This creates a reduction in overall maintenance costs, lets the person spend less on commuting and eating out, and builds a sense of loyalty between the employee and the company. Such innovative tools may create a physical distance, but the closeness a person feels to their employer may actually increase because of it.

Recognize and Elevate

Paying people more to do a good job does not promote the same sense of value or employee engagement that other methods might. It also does nothing to save the company money, either in payroll or increased output.

Creating programs that focus on recognizing excellence and linking it to performance have a much greater impact. Top businesses strive to build employee loyalty by encouraging feedback from them as well as customers, thereby understanding worker culture and its connection to the corporate equivalent, while simultaneously gauging how well these ideals are being communicated to consumers. In the end, many companies see drastic increases in employee engagement, customer satisfaction and overall strength of corporate identity thanks to the consideration and recognition it gives its workers in exchange for superior customer service.

It is important to understand that more than just formal recognition needs to be delivered. Having an ad hoc way of bringing top achievements to light can be more endearing through its spontaneity, and since this method does not incur any additional costs, it is as financially-friendly for businesses as it gets. An informal solution can be as simple as rewarding employees who have finished their daily assignments with an early leave, or extra remote working time for workers that are far ahead of schedule. Such incentives encourage more productivity while promoting the idea that, the better job a person does, the more rewards they can hope to receive.

Actually Having Fun

A lot of businesses say, “We want to be a place where our people enjoy coming to work and have fun doing their jobs.” But what are they actually doing to make that a reality? If there is no plan in place to realize this ambition, it will never happen.

Leading innovators like Google encourage employees to play games, relax and get tasks done in an environment that is as much work as it is fun. When a company says it wants its people to have fun but provides no outlet for this to happen, chances are it never will.

“Anything that gets people out of their usual headspace and routine can help,” said Ryan Tate, author and HR expert. His book, ‘The 20% Doctrine: How Tinkering, Goofing Off and Breaking Rules at Work Drive Success in Business,’ coaches managers and HR personnel to allow one-fifth of their daily routine to be free-form. In other words, split up work so that every day has some playtime. Assigned duties will still get done, but the output will be of far higher quality, and employees will actually have fun at work.

What ways does your company promote fun at work?

The Mistakes of Dealing With Mistakes

14 Dec

Many businesses try to depict themselves as being nearly perfect. They quickly reject accusations and focus, instead, on instances of ideal performance. But is this attitude realistic? More importantly, is it even appealing?

Customers appreciate companies that are willing to acknowledge their mistakes and address them directly. They are also highly adept at recognizing superficiality, so prancing around touting the endless superiority of your business does little more than instill your brand’s shallowness.

Some even say that it is the flaws of a company that display its quality and character. Nobody is striving to commit errors, but mistakes do happen, and customers (for the most part) understand this. How you deal with these (hopefully) momentary shortcomings can even help set you apart from the competition.

Regarding workforce management, why should this same attitude not be extended to your employees? To accept the inevitable mistakes of your company would seem to imply that you also accept the same from your staff. Once again, that doesn’t mean setting the bar low and allowing blunders to occur in droves, but it does point out the importance of humility, compassion and empathy in the workplace.

Just like customers, employees want their managers to hear what they’re saying, show that they care about what they’re going through and that they plan to do something about it.

When a mistake occurs, it’s important to act fast. Find out what happened, why it happened and how you and your team can prevent it from happening again. To do this, you need to understand the natural humanity of your workers. Get to the root of the problem: Are they distracted by something in their personal lives? Are they struggling with an excessive workload? Are they disengaged? If so, why?

Still, it doesn’t matter how kind, understanding or humble you are if your organization keeps making the same mistake. As a manger, you need to make substantial efforts to solve problems and curtail the risk of such errors happening again. This latter point is expected by customers, because when it comes to the business world, a repeated mistake is inexcusable.

Finally, you need to communicate well and often. Ultimately, you should show care for your employees because it’s the right thing to do, and it’s good for the business.

What are some other ways managers can show empathy for making mistakes? Let us know your ideas by mentioning @SageHRMS in a tweet or dropping us a note on our Facebook page!

Why Your Top Performers Are Jumping Ship

12 Dec

With a large number of companies starting to rebound and focus on growth, many businesses are letting career advancement fall by the wayside. Failing to give staff members incentives for promotions and career advancement opportunities could cost corporations their engagement and loyalty. As several studies have revealed, employees want to have upward mobility and benefits or payment incentives to keep them coming back. Failure to overlook these desires could cost companies their best workers.

Building Better Opportunities

As the unemployment crisis begins to wind down, some employers feel that coming up with strategies to entice new workers and entertain existing ones are not as important. On the contrary, as the financial sphere starts to get back on track, HR personnel need to work hard to ensure that their organizations are riding the crest of the wave, by monitoring employee engagement levels and making sure that workforce goals are being met. A strong emphasis on corporate leadership and culture will influence the mindset of uncertain workers, but giving them something to strive for is always a better bet.

The Society for Human Resources Management found that most HR personnel feel they’re on the cusp of losing most of their top talent thanks to lethargy in their retention plans. Knowing this is the case, it seems shocking that there isn’t more panic in the human resources department as employees scramble to create better engagement strategies, but it seems everyone involved is handling this with a level head.

The answer here could be as simple as stagnancy. In other words, while some stellar staff members may jump ship and find new employment, many will stay where they are either out of loyalty or lethargy, though one of these is far more desirable than the other. Encouraging greater understanding and adherence to corporate cultural messages can induce better retention levels among existing staff, so long as businesses find ways of helping workers overcome occupational stagnation.

Asset Management

With unemployment dropping throughout the United States, it makes sense that employers would want to ensure that they’re doing everything they can to retain the valuable assets they’ve spent time and money training and acculturating over the last few years. Allowing this process to fall by the wayside could cost them their return on employee investment as staff members dwindle and fall away to rival organizations.

Mercer reported that HR personnel are more concerned about worker engagement and career options than ever. That’s because with fewer quality candidates to choose from, businesses understand that a lost employee won’t be as easy to replace as it might have been even a year ago when unemployment was still a rampant issue.

People are staying in the office sphere longer than before, pushing the average retirement age even higher, but that doesn’t mean that these workers are available for hire. They are by and large already gainfully employed, and unless their bosses are making the mistake of failing to give them advancement options and incentives, it’s likely they won’t leave anytime soon.

“Employee loyalty has been eroding the past few years due to businesses’ responses to the economic downturn,” said Loree Griffith of Mercer in a Benefits News interview. She told the source that companies want to find ways of engaging and motivating their workers but can’t seem to realize that they need to offer them advancement opportunities and career planning in order to keep them interested.

Despite indications that the economy is turning around, businesses and HR personnel need to carefully assess their advancement programs and ensure they’re granting enough incentives to keep employees engaged. If corporations should lose the loyalty of their best workers, they could see themselves slipping despite the overall economic recovery, as their best resources will no longer be with the company.

Do you think your company is doing enough to keep employees engagement and top performers around?

Avoid Melting Employees In Order To Achieve Company Goals

7 Dec

People are like snowflakes: No two of them are exactly alike, and if you apply too much direct heat and pressure, they tend to melt. The problem with determining how to work with individuals within an organization lies in this principle. HR personnel know they can churn out analytics and deploy all the human resources management solutions they want, but unless they know what the people desire, there’s no way they can deliver those expectations.

So far, the biggest application of surveying employees has been in areas which are at minimum a litmus test for initiatives not related to performance. Topics like picking coffee flavors for the shared kitchen Keurig, selecting days for casual wear besides Friday or asking what kind of reserved parking spaces people want in the company lot can be handled in this format. Basically, these are low-impact, ambiguous questionnaires that don’t tell HR personnel anything personal about anyone in the organization, except how many of them own cars or drink coffee.

To really assist with improving employee engagement, management needs to find out more about each person on a one-to-one basis. This sounds like a laborious, time-consuming activity, but there are plenty of HRMS tools that can help achieve this goal without conducting a thousand painstaking interviews or remembering the names of everyone’s pets, kids and partners.

Software Helps With Service
In small entities, it may be possible for the boss to get to know everyone on a first-name basis, meet their families or even show up at their homes. Fostering personal relationships like this can create a much better association with workers and promote higher levels of employee loyalty. In companies with more than 50 staff members, such interactions could pose a significant strain on management.

Use of employee self-service tools offers HR personnel with an easy in to learn what people really think and feel. It also can provide information about upcoming personal events, interests and desires, which can then help influence future decisions that may apply to an individual. For instance, being aware that an individual’s birthday is approaching may cause management to not assign that person a shift that day, or could prompt an office surprise of another kind. Getting in touch with staff members in this way can make them feel an additional sense of value and pride in their organization, even if a gesture is minimal at best. This means entities don’t need to go out of their way to make workers feel special, as for instance on birthdays – simply getting a birthday card or sending out a corporate message to personnel with an announcement can be enough.

Free Ways to Engage Employees
On top of simply taking surveys of workers, there are ways for bosses to reach out to personnel in a way that lets them improve associations. While upper management may not have time for every individual, direct leaders can connect on a daily basis with their staff and then report to their superiors if something beyond their ability to handle should arise. Having regular meetings can mean sitting in a conference room or having coffee as an extra break during the day, which lets employees catch up with managers about work in a relaxed, personal manner.

Holiday events can also be a welcome distraction from work as well as an opportunity to get to know staff members better. Holding a year-end party at the office encourages people to relax and talk to coworkers, communicate casually with managers and have fun at work. To avoid spending lavishly on these events, hosting them in a work cafeteria or general office space will cut out location expenses, and encouraging workers to contribute snacks or making it a potluck party will help manage other costs as well.

Managing Employee Problems
Improving employee engagement in this way can help with retention of personnel as well as the customer base. When entities start losing workers or otherwise are harboring a percentage of unsatisfied employees, word of mouth about a company tends to spread, and when it’s personnel saying negative things about a corporation, outside parties tend to pay particular attention. On top of that, since workers are the face of the business, customer satisfaction could take a dive if staff members are not happy to work for that organization, projecting an air of negativity toward everyone involved in daily operations.

Many online sources have recommended adding benefits to existing plans that promote more wellness or show an interest in long term investment strategies for workers. Pension plans are something that a lot of employees want in order to protect themselves and their families, but in light of the recession many businesses shed such programs to cut costs. Now that the economy is on the mend, bringing back such offerings could help boost satisfaction and engagement statistics.

Worry Less About New Hires and More About Training

5 Dec

Employee Training is Affordable Way to Improve ROEIMany businesses are now in a position where they’re worrying less about economic woes and more about how to expand their current portfolios, but to do that, a lot of them are turning to outside hiring practices to try and get fresh perspectives. The problem here is that many of the most talented employees have already been scooped up by other companies – with the unemployment rate dropping and many businesses sharing this expansionary mindset, plenty of employers have already scoured the system.

As one of the leading concerns expressed regarding IT and HR personnel, as well as a myriad of other departments, some businesses have moved away from hiring what they consider the most experienced candidates. Instead, they’re focusing on investments in workforce, creating better employees out of the personnel they already have.

The Power of People
Currently, a number of companies already have a large numbers of people ready to participate in training and other refinement practices geared toward improving productivity and overall performance. The idea here is that, instead of going out and recruiting a new set of workers, these companies are better off improving the quality of the resources they already have, since these individuals know all about the corporate culture, systems and personnel interactions. Rather than wasting time and money on bringing a new recruit up to speed on the very basics before even launching into specialized topics, HR personnel stand a better chance of seeing a return on employee investment (ROEI) versus a new job offer with internal candidates and increased training.

Focusing on ROEI can highlight a myriad of savings for corporations, making a compelling case against new hires, especially in a dried-up talent pool. The direct and indirect expenses turn in the business’ favor when balanced out, reducing turnover and boosting employee engagement. By adding to the value of existing personnel, corporations will see improvements in the overall quality of output from people who have been with the company for some time, but what’s changed is that they feel more like their bosses care, and therefore are compelled to do a better job.

Learning to Invest
Companies of all kinds can partake in these strategies. Whether it’s IT departments, financial institutions or retail stores, the ability to improve productivity and quality of work of employees can be as simple as showing an interest in those employees’ continued growth. By adding to the abilities of existing personnel, ROEI for employee training can outweigh hiring initiatives easily.

In light of this, technology retailer Best Buy recently decided to improve its existing workforce by showing more than 50,000 of its current employees more about Windows 8. As Microsoft’s newest line of software, the operating system builds on older deployments and makes these previous models obsolete, yet the programs are written for mobile devices mostly, meaning not all consumers will understand why they’re useful. There was no way Best Buy could go out and hire people with this knowledge – as a newly released item, the talent pool was barren in terms of candidates with in-depth experience of handling Microsoft Surfaces or Windows 8. Instead, the organization chose to train all its applicable workers at every location in the country. While the business could have hired fresh candidates and taught them the same information, it made more sense to boost employee engagement by adding investment strategies to current HR programs.