How To Address The Root Cause Of Your Employee Engagement Issues

Employee engagement is one of the most critical factors in an organization’s success. Without a motivated staff that’s excited about their work, you’ll find yourself with low performance, productivity and quality — and very high turnover.

Unfortunately, fostering engagement is easier said than done, and it’s even harder to turn engagement around when it’s in decline. The best thing a leader can do is get to the heart of the issues that are hurting engagement and attack the root cause.

We asked members of Forbes Coaches Council to share some strategies for solving employee engagement problems. Their best answers are below.

1. Find activities that take your team out of their usual surroundings.

When it’s all work and no play, life and work can get boring, and we become disconnected from those around us. Be intentional about choosing a team-building activity, such as vision boards or water parks — something or somewhere that takes you out of your usual surroundings. You start to see skills and personalities surface that you may have missed. – Frances McIntosh, Intentional Coaching LLC

2. Enlist your front-line staff.

A critical component to deepening employee engagement is empowering front-line staff to come up with the solutions. Are staff not feeling heard by leadership? Enlist them in creating communication methods that close the gaps. If they need a greater connection to the company vision, have employee advocates come up with ways to understand and report on leadership strategies. Shift the ownership. – Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC

3. Dig deep, and listen intently.

Question everything as you dig deep into understanding the issues. Listen intently from a very curious place. A client organization recently discovered their vacation policy forcing employees to use vacation time wasn’t eliminating burnout; it was the source of stress creating it. It also didn’t save money but actually cost more to backfill roles. Based on employee feedback, they eliminated the policy. – Jenn Lofgren, Incito Executive & Leadership Development

4. Be committed to acting on feedback.

Many organizations are using engagement surveys, and what happens when the results come out? The leadership delves into the data and comments — but what are you as a leader doing to truly act on the feedback? Instead of getting defensive about what the results are saying, commit to action. Make some significant changes, not just tending to the “low lying fruit.” Feedback is a gift; accept it. – Kathy Lockwood, Blue Water Leadership Coaching

5. Treat employees like you treat your customers.

True leadership success is measured by employee engagement and employee satisfaction. When employees are engaged and satisfied, they are productive and give clients and customers an exceptional experience. Here is the secret to developing an engaged and satisfied workforce: Treat them like they are your customers, and watch how they treat your clients and customers. – Chris Cebollero, Cebollero & Associates

6. Conduct exit interviews before an employee actually leaves.

Exit interviews are a cop out. They are often too little, too late. It’s a way for companies to gather insight on how they are performing without having to be held accountable. If organizations wish to truly get to the root cause, they should be asking employees on the regular what is and is not working, then making changes and reporting back on improvements to the employees who work there. – Kyle Elliott, MPA, CHES, Kyle Elliott Consulting –

7. Conduct an internal analysis to find your own best practices.

Many organizations are consumed with applying “best” practices to engage employees. What is best for one organization or a randomized sample of organizations may not be what is best for your particular organization. Sponsor, inspire and reward true innovation, rather than applying consulting firm recommendations without doing an internal analysis. – Eddie Turner, Eddie Turner LLC

8. Establish a culture of trust.

No relationship, professional or personal, can thrive without trust. Trust is a domino effect. A company’s CEO needs to acknowledge shortcomings and commit to changing the culture publicly. Outside consultants are critical for individuals to speak openly about problems without risk of getting fired. The CEO and their leaders need accountability to implement recommendations in a timely fashion. – Jennifer Musselman, Jennifer Musselman

9. Gather firsthand accounts from employees.

If you ever want to see how or why your employees’ engagement is lacking, just ask them. Their firsthand accounts of what is or is not working will help you determine the best course of action. Engaged employees equal engaged customers and clients. – Maleeka T. Hollaway, The Official Maleeka Group, LLC.

10. Give employees the tools they need to succeed.

Leaders are asking their teams to be creative, innovative and agile without acknowledging that their existing structures are still risk averse and value stability and predictability. This “just do it” attitude causes a feeling of helplessness and lack of control, which leads to lack of engagement. Leaders can provide the “how” — the specific tools — so their team feels success is attainable. – Rachel Bellack, The Improv Advantage

11. Truly live your company’s mission, vision and values.

Companies often represent their mission statement with words like transparency, collaboration and diversity. Many don’t follow through with the actions to positively affect their culture. Engage with your talent. Take the time to listen and understand their aspirations. Ask how your company can support their goals. This care can reinforce a ‘relationship matters’ attitude. – Deborah Goldstein, DRIVEN Professionals

12. Encourage open and safe conversations.

Conduct forums that encourage employees to be open and feel safe talking about work situations and career development. Really hear what is being said and make changes accordingly. Your employees are your internal customers and you lose valuable talent and knowledge if you don’t listen and come up with a plan that addresses employee pain points. – Katrina Brittingham, VentureReady LLC

13. Be brutally honest.

One of the top issues I hear about when it comes to employee engagement issues is that there is no transparency within the organization. Resolving employee engagement issues often requires brutal honesty coupled with the safe environment necessary for people to be honest. Unless you actually solve the root problem, your issues will persist. – Rubi Ho, The Rubi Ho Group

Meeting the Challenges of Global Mobility

In the highly competitive nature of today’s talent marketplace, the need for a globally-mobile workforce has never been greater. Jonathan Pearce, Principal at Deloitte Tax LLP & Marc Solow, Managing Director of the Human Capital Practice at Deloitte Consulting LLP discuss how a digital solution for the global mobility challenge can help deliver inspired employee experiences

A well-developed capability for global mobility is essential for companies seeking to develop and manage top talent, achieve business objectives, and foster a global mindset. Of the 10,400 businesspeople in 140 countries who participated in Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey, 68 percent agreed that “a mobile workforce is an enabler of business and talent strategies.”

The problem? Only 3 percent of the respondents rated their companies as “world class” in global deployments.

There are good reasons for this gap: global mobility is a complex, risk-laden, and disruptive undertaking. Moreover, it’s costly to move employees around the world. Our experience working with multinationals tells us that it costs approximately three times an employee’s salary (and typically, these are executive and professional salaries) to deploy someone on a traditional long-term global assignment. And that does not include the productivity losses commonly incurred as employees move themselves and their families to new and unfamiliar locales.

That’s needed is a way to manage global assignments that is simple, personalized, and predictive, in a manner that better serves the needs of workers and the companies for which they work.

The global mobility challenge

The challenge of global mobility is one that affects both employers and employees. They represent, in effect, two sides of the global mobility coin.

For employers, the challenge of global mobility is about talent identification, first and foremost. They need a way to find and match talent to global opportunities, a task that is becoming more complex as the workforce expands to include non-traditional elements, such as gig workers. Unfortunately, 73 percent of the respondents in our 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey said their companies do not maintain a candidate pool for future international assignments.

The second part of the challenge for employers is about selection. In short, who is the best choice for a specific opportunity? This is a surprisingly complicated question that can involve a variety of decision factors, including cost, timing, risk, and tax considerations. Few companies have systems that enable them to efficiently collect and analyze all of the factors that play a part in the mobility decision. The result: less-than-fully-informed decisions that don’t serve employers or employees.

Employees must navigate personal and professional dislocations that global mobility can create. Global assignments are complex and disruptive experiences. Not only do they involve fundamental changes in an employee’s work life, often they also involve the uprooting of an employee’s personal life—a condition that can become exponentially more difficult when life-partners and children are involved.

Far too often, the global mobility challenge for employees is exacerbated by a lack of support from employers. Unlike the seamless, one-stop experiences that employees have come to expect as digital consumers, the disjointed nature of the multiple processes and disconnected interactions with multiple vendors they must manage in a global assignment can feel like a big step back in time.

Just meeting the demands imposed by the immigration, employment, and tax laws associated with a new country can be daunting, especially when it also involves dealing with siloed functions within their own companies. Add in moving, housing, schools, language, and cultural assimilation, and it’s no wonder that global assignments require exceptionally adept and adaptable employees.

And yet, all of these challenges notwithstanding, the need for global mobility is growing. New types of mobility assignments are becoming commonplace. Among them are managers whose responsibilities cross national borders and, as a result, are asked to take frequent, extended trips to other countries, and functional and subject matter experts who are being asked to temporarily relocate for a project. The expat of yesteryear, who left his home country for years and returned only for vacations and in retirement, is becoming the exception instead of the rule, while many of the risk, cost, and personal implications remain.

A digital solution to global mobility

As the demand for a mobile workforce grows, so does the need for a solution to the mobility challenges facing employers and workers. A mobility solution should seek to transform the employee experience in a global assignment into the same kind of convenient, efficient, and engaging experience we’ve come to expect as digital consumers . Happily, digital technology can offer such a solution, with apps, personalization, and 24/7 access.

Digital mobility solutions can deliver an inclusively designed, worker-centered experience that rivals digital consumer experiences . Getting a visa, planning a move, getting the kids enrolled in new schools, finding a home—not to mention all of the support mobile workers may need while on assignment or upon repatriation. All of these tasks and more can be navigated on one intelligent platform that not only delivers transactional capabilities, but also monitors outcomes and offers advice. By streamlining and guiding mobile workers through global assignments in this way, digital platforms enhance engagement, productivity, and impact.

One example of such a solution is Deloitte’s ConnectMe™, a digital workplace that provides employees with a host of HR services, accessible from anywhere, at any time. A digital platform like ConnectMe is smart and intuitive, and it enhances organizational and employee productivity and mobility. It brings all of the processes and vendors involved in global mobility together onto a single place, and in doing so, it can reduce the friction inherent to global assignments and elevates the employee experience.

A digital mobility platform can also provide the analytics that can surface the insights needed to better manage today’s multi-modal talent pools and to make more informed decisions about global talent, deployment, and workforce planning . Better yet, it enables companies to embed global mobility in the other processes within a company—integrating it into the company’s total talent lifecycle, for example.

In marrying the needs of employers and workers, digital platforms transform the complexities, risks, and disruptions that create obstacles to global mobility into a dynamic marketplace of opportunities. They enable human-centric mobility programs, freeing employers to focus on higher-value activities and more personalized connections with workers. They bolster the employee mobility experience—after all, a happy, engaged expat is a more productive expat. And, in a time when the composition of the workforce itself is changing, they offer Global Mobility professionals a chance to position themselves on the leading edge.

Ask Yourself These Questions At Every Stage Of Your Career

Moving forward in your career generally involves taking deliberate actions–some of which are less than obvious. Earning a promotion involves more than doing good work. You have to excel at the right assignments, impress the right people, and in most instances, advocate for yourself.

Careers are no longer linear. New jobs and fields are springing up, job hopping and career changes are no longer seen as a big deal. On the plus side, this has created lots of opportunities. The downside is, it can be difficult to know whether you are doing the right thing.

Which makes reflection and asking the right questions all the more crucial. Here are some of the questions you should periodically ask yourself to ensure that you’re moving forward in your career–in a way that you want to.

What Do I Want To Get Good At Doing?

You’ve probably been told to “follow your passion” at some point in your life, and you probably also know that there are a lot of problems with asking the question, “What’s my passion?” As Code 2040’s director of marketing and communications Allison Jones previously wrote in Fast Company, this “career” advice reeks of elitism and ignores “the work aspect of work.” By asking yourself what you’re willing to work hard to get good at, you’re acknowledging the reality that building a career is not an overnight effort, and you’re probably going to encounter pain in the process.

Careers take a long time to build. Leadership consultant and former VP of HR at Walmart Angel Gomez told Fast Company that “we tend to hero worship those people that have a quick win,” and we often lie to ourselves about what it takes to build a successful career. “I think that folks want advancement very quickly, and sometimes you just need two to three cycles to get good at what you’re doing.”

What Kind Of Environment Allows Me To Be At My Best?

It’s not always easy to answer this question without trial and error, but different people thrive in different environments. As Morra Aarons-Mele previously wrote for Fast Company, “Some of us thrive on office life: the group projects, collegiality, the conference calls, the palace intrigue–but others need quiet space to work. That doesn’t mean they’re escaping work, just that they’re more easily overstimulated.”

Beyond noise and quiet, a company’s role and culture plays a large part in your happiness at work and tends to translate to your success and professional growth (or lack of). As Molly Petrilla previously wrote for Fast Company, “If you like chit-chat and a background hum, you probably won’t be happy in the tomb-silent office where you just interviewed. Or if you love coming up with new ideas and taking big risks, you may not like a place that doesn’t embrace change.”

How Can I Set Myself To Get The Best Experiences Possible?

Gomez told Fast Company that early in your career, your focus should be on maximizing learning opportunities. When Gomez started his career as a young litigator, he deliberately sought out opportunities at smaller firms in order to get more time trying cases. In his instance, this choice presented him with plenty more hands-on experience early in his career than his peers working at big law firms might not have gotten.

Even in the most menial jobs, there are always things you can do to gain hands-on experience that would benefit you later in your career. Rachel Bitte, chief people officer at Jobvite, previously told Fast Company that one way to do this is to “look for projects that are really meaty that some people might shy away from.”

What Kinds Of Activities Give Me Strength And Energy, And What Kinds Of Activities Weaken Me?

As you are exposed to different jobs in your career, you’ll learn that there are certain tasks that invigorate you and things that “suck the energy out of you.” Gomez suggests thinking of a time where you go home energized at the end of a long day of work, and making sure that you choose to take jobs that involve those activities. Angela R. Howard, organizational psychologist and owner of talent and culture consulting firm ARH Clarity Consulting, LLC, told Fast Company that mid-career is a great time to reflect on whether you are happy in your current career trajectory.

Do I Want To Go Into Management Or Do I Want To Be An Individual Contributor?

In a corporation, “moving up” is often seen as stepping into a managerial role. But just as everyone is not suited to a specific office culture, Howard said that often, those early in their careers “always want to be the boss.” Then they get to mid-career and realize that they don’t want to manage people. Howard says that it’s important to answer this question honestly, and be okay with not wanting to go down the management track. This is a sentiment that Gomez echoes. He told Fast Company, “A lot of people don’t ask themselves this question.”

In What Ways Can I Still Make An Impact?

If you’ve made it to the top of your industry and don’t want to retire just yet, chances are that you’re still motivated to grow and challenge yourself. Howard told Fast Company that this is a good time to assess whether you’ve achieved the impact that you wanted to achieve in your career, and whether you can bring your skill sets and experience to another industry. In addition, it’s also worth thinking about the possibility of using your expertise to start a business, Howard says.

How Can I Use My Learnings To Give Back And Help People?

More importantly, this a great time to be thinking about how you can develop others, Howard says. You know why younger employees can benefit from having a mentor, but mentors also have a lot to gain by having mentees. As marketing and psychology professor Art Markman wrote for Fast Company, you’ll be able to gain a greater understanding of your work by having to teach or explain it to your mentee. More powerfully, it allows you to appreciate what you’ve accomplished in your career so far. Markman wrote, “It is hard to see your big contributions amid the cloud of daily tasks. As a mentor, you get to compare yourself to someone who is just starting out. That helps to bring the things you have accomplished into relief.”

Even McKinsey Gets It: High Wages Improve Economic Performance

“After a year-long analysis of seven developed countries and six sectors,” global management consultancy company McKinsey has “concluded that demand matters for productivity growth and that increasing demand is key to restarting growth across advanced economies.” Which means—surprise, surprise—higher wages for the workforce. The report by James Manyika, Jaana Remes and Jan Mischke was published in the Harvard Business Review. Their analysis marks a shift from the prevailing paradigm of the past several years in which poor productivity growth was viewed as largely a function of supply-side factors such as excessively “rigid” labor markets (hence the call to make it easier to hire and fire workers, and reduce unionization), insufficiently low tax rates (hence the drive to reduce corporate tax rates), a largely unskilled labor force (hence the push for more H1-B visas for Silicon Valley jobs), and too little global competition (hence the need for more, not less free trade).

If deficient demand (and a concomitant commitment to full employment) is not considered relevant as far as productivity goes, the policy framework is very different. Fiscal policy is diminished because there is little point in “wasting” limited financial resources on fiscal stimulus, higher real wages, or a restructuring of the private debt overhang. And economic inequality doesn’t even factor into the equation at all. Rising inequality, growing polarization and the vanishing middle class have all been seen as unfortunate, but inevitable byproducts of globalization, rather than drivers of slow potential growth.

By contrast, the McKinsey analysis leads to a very different policy outcome—one that places demand management and full employment at the heart of macroeconomic policy-making. In fact, there is a historical basis to support the authors’ view that demand does matter when considering the issue of productivity. The post-WWII period until the OPEC induced recessions of the early-1970s was a time during which wage gains grew in line with productivity increases. The resultantly higher wages thus provided an incentive for firms to invest in labor-saving machinery, with the upshot that productivity growth surged further as a result. That all began to change some 40 years ago, as market fundamentalism and “supply-side” policies began to supersede traditional Keynesian demand management. The link between productivity and wage gains was severed (more national income went to corporate profits) and wage gains were suppressed (because labor was seen simply as a cost input, rather than a source of demand).

This redistribution of national income in favor of corporations away from the workforce removed the incentives businesses had to invest in the modernization of their capital stock (ultimately impacting productivity growth). Even as profits rose, incomes remained stagnant for a large proportion of the population. Globalization and offshoring entrenched this new low wage-growth orientation of businesses, in combination with domestic labor market deregulation and de-unionization. Fiscal policy was gradually de-emphasized in favor of ‘independent’ central bank-led monetary policy, but the problem of deficient demand and wage stagnation was masked for a time as the use of financial engineering pushed ever-increasing debt onto the household sector (as they used borrowing to compensate for stagnant growth in income). As Bill Mitchell wrote in 2012, “Riskier loans were created and eventually the relationship between capacity to pay and the size of the loan was stretched beyond any reasonable limit.” Mitchell also wrote, “The household sector, already squeezed for liquidity” by virtue of non-existent wage growth, was “enticed by the lower interest rates and the vehement marketing strategies of the financial engineers” to take on more debt.

Meanwhile, the increasing financialization of the global economy enabled the rich to have their cake (profits) and eat it (by channeling them to offshore tax havens). Corporate CEOs, the so-called “risk-takers,” increasingly negotiated to have their compensation packages tied to stock price appreciation, which incentivized companies to use cash flow for stock buybacks, rather than invest in plant and equipment. The scale of these buybacks was analyzed by economics professor William Lazonick, who documented that between 2003 and 2012, the 449 companies who comprised the S&P index “used 54% of their earnings—a total of $2.4 trillion—to buy back their own stock, almost all through purchases on the open market.” As stock prices rose, so too did the CEO/directors’ overall compensation packages until the whole system cracked in 2008.

The only real surprise is that it took so long for the likes of McKinsey to recognize what was blindingly obvious to most people for decades. Without a hint of irony, the authors of the report cite the famous example of Henry Ford in the early part of the 20th century. Ford had the rare insight among the entrepreneurs of his day that workers were not simply a cost input, but an important source of demand for the products they were producing: “When other employers followed suit, it became clear that Ford had sparked a chain reaction. Higher pay throughout the industry helped lead to more sales, creating a virtuous cycle of growth and prosperity.”

But Ford was not the originator of this insight. John Atkinson Hobson, a British economist in the latter part of the 19th century and first part of the 20th century, was one of the first to champion a high wage economy. Reflecting the insights of the McKinsey authors some 150 years earlier, Hobson argued that wage suppression was unhealthy and immoral. He advocated redistributing income to low earners—that is, moving toward greater equality—which he argued would reduce the capacity of the wealthy to save and place more spending power into the hands of those with higher consuming propensities. He also supported greater labor unionization and was one of the early advocates of social welfare and public education (providing support, for example, to David Lloyd George’s “People’s Budget” introduced by the future British prime minister when he was chancellor of the exchequer in 1909). Essentially, Hobson promoted the notion of a “high-wage economy” to mitigate the problem of “an accumulation of Capital in excess of that which is required for use, and this excess will exist in the form of general over-production.”

Hobson and his co-author, A.F. Mummery, made the case that if productivity growth outstripped real wages growth, you would have “under-consumption,” the upshot being that overproduction would ensue. (Of course, as Bill Mitchell has trenchantly observed, the authors were developing these insights a century before financial deregulation and the democratization of credit facilitated private debt binges, both of which masked and deferred the effects of under-consumption, while simultaneously increasing financial fragility, as the 2008 crisis illustrated.)

In any case, the insights of Hobson, Henry Ford and later Keynes are finding resonance today. We have an economy where workers, who have traditionally relied on real wages growth to fund consumption growth, have found themselves increasingly cut off from the fruits of national prosperity as their wage gains have been suppressed in the interests of securing higher profits. The usual justification for this shift in income away from workers to corporations is that the latter use the resultant profits to stimulate investment, which will ultimately benefit the company as a whole (including its workforce). But another byproduct of overly financialized economies is that corporate profits historically used for productive ventures have instead gone into stock buybacks, fueling the speculative asset bubbles that have percolated across the global economy.

It is also clear that the thrust of policies antithetical to labor continues unabated under Trump and his oligarch supporters, the most recent manifestation being the Janus v. AFSCME, now being heard by the Supreme Court. This is a case that has the potential to strip unions of a major source of income, the latest blow to a movement where only 9 percent of the American workforce is currently unionized. These oligarchs (the Koch brothers, the Mercer family, the Bradley Foundation, etc.) have long buttressed successive federal governments (and a number of “right to work” states), which have supported their agendas via privatization, outsourcing, the removal of any campaign finance restrictions, and welfare-to-work requirements, to list a few of the most pernicious examples.

The substantial redistribution of national income toward capital over the last 30 years has undermined the capacity of households to maintain consumption growth without recourse to debt, and increasingly hindered the economy’s growth capacity. But the “secular stagnation” described by economists such as Lawrence Summers is a phenomenon that is the product of conscious policy choices, not some kind of inevitable fate that afflicts helpless economic actors as in an ancient Greek tragedy. Rather, economic stagnation and sluggish productivity are the outcomes of conscious policy choices. They reflect a profound failure of sensible macroeconomic demand management. McKinsey is the latest to affirm this economic reality. But will policy-makers act on their insights, or do we have to wait for the onset of yet another global economic crisis before the problems they describe are truly addressed?


Rising Workplace Trends That Are Reshaping The Work Of HR

From regulatory uncertainty to breakthrough moments in corporate integrity and workforce diversity, the business world has been shaken up and there is now even more pressure on HR leaders to do the best they can to create workplaces where people thrive. These five rising trends are reshaping the work of HR leaders today.

1. Human Capital Transparency

You already know that diversity in companies does matter and that it can make a positive impact on the company’s bottom line. Diverse teams offer deeper insights to the challenges your business might be facing and bring more efficient solutions to the table.

When it comes to disclosing human capital details, companies often report different metrics on the company health as a part of public filings. But not so much is reported on employee health markers such as gender equity, minority representation and staff turnover. While a push for disclosure of human capital metrics has been happening, it comes mostly under circumstances of public scrutiny.

More companies will soon opt for transparency, and investors and investor advocacy groups will likely continue to push hard on disclosure of such metrics. Legislative efforts in California and New York, as well as CEO pay disclosure requirements, will also drive greater transparency and fairness around pay.

More companies should and increasingly may proactively disclose their successes and work with their employees and local communities to improve these even further and create workplace ethics and cultures that will attract the best talent who will thrive in the diverse environment.

2. Playing “Defense” Against The Gig Economy

Many companies have started to see the free-agency trend in employee behavior in certain parts of the workforce. “Rock star” employees realize their value and want to dedicate their time to working on exciting projects, maximizing for value and reward while minimizing the time invested. With the rapid growth of the gig economy, it means that your best employees might choose to work for themselves and contract for multiple companies to give themselves more flexibility. This supports their lifestyle much better than committing to working for your company full-time.

Does it mean you should give up on all of your full-time employees and rehire them as contractors? Not at all. But now is the time to start building some defenses against the gig economy. More companies will create innovative work-life integration and time-off programs to accommodate the needs of their best employees.

Take time to assess your company’s approach to managing and rewarding people against this new and different type of competitor, the allure of gig work. As an employer, it’s time to use the advantages you have as a counterweight to your best people seeking to test the waters elsewhere. Try different approaches and see what works best for which groups of employees, rather than using a “one size fits all” policy best suited for full-time employees.

3. Redefining The Manager Role

People often confuse leadership with supervision. That’s why mid-management is usually responsible for “everything,” from coming up with the big vision for the business to monitoring the team’s time sheets and conducting employee performance reviews. The problem is that this model does not work well. Top people in management are not always quality supervisors.

In the months and years ahead, we will see the redefinition of what it means to lead versus manage versus supervise. Want to get ahead of the curve? Spend some time truly paying attention to what skills your people possess and in which roles your employees will shine most. Don’t ask them to be jacks of all trades — allow managers to specialize in the areas they excel in and create a more effective people management program.

4. Simplification And Consolidation Of Resources And Tools

We live in the world where there are solutions catering to any needs an employee or organization might have. As good as it might sound, the abundance of choice can cause HR leaders to feel overwhelmed, distracting them from making employees core needs and values a priority. If you’ve ever felt like there are too many benefits to choose from and it’s taking increasingly more time to manage them, you’re not alone.

Take the opportunity to rationalize your choices of employee benefits and rewards by focusing on what matters to them most. We will see HR tools consolidation that will bring transparency, easier filtering and a smoother selection process that will cohesively fit into your HR strategy.

5. The Rise Of The CFO In Managing Compensation Costs

When companies dedicate a significant amount of time to finding and hiring future employees, it’s only natural that they are ready to do whatever it takes to make employees happy. Ping-pong tournaments? Done! Beer yoga on Monday mornings? No problem! Funky job titles and bi-annual pay rises? You got it! But question: Do these really matter when it comes to employee satisfaction and retention and is it sustainable to keep promoting your staff and increasing their salary every few months?

Naturally, the CFO has always been involved in managing compensation costs. But going forward, they will bring a new skill: job leveling. Job leveling is the process of determining the relative value of jobs in an organization. It helps companies direct people-related programs to the appropriate level and better manage labor costs. It might sound boring, but investing in thinking strategically about job architecture can do wonders for the business from a financial perspective. Build a workforce structure that supports the work dynamics and employee experience, and see the positive impact it makes on workforce cost, employee attraction and retention, company culture and your business’s bottom line.

HR leaders play a crucial role in ensuring that businesses build healthy and rewarding environments for their employees. By taking a proactive approach, you can get ahead of the curve and help create a workplace culture that attracts the best people in business.


People Don’t Want to Be Compared with Others in Performance Reviews. They Want to Be Compared with Themselves

People hate performance evaluations. They really do. According to a survey of Fortune 1,000 companies done by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), 66% of the employees were strongly dissatisfied with the performance evaluations they received in their organizations. More strikingly, 65% of the employees believed that performance evaluations were not even relevant to their jobs.

This is unfortunate considering the amount of resources that organizations devote to conducting performance evaluations. CEB research says that when we take into account how much money organizations are investing in their performance appraisal technology and how much time managers are spending to evaluate their employees, on average U.S. organizations spend $3,000 per year, per employee. This implies that billions of dollars are spent across the country because more than 90% of American companies provide performance evaluations at least once a year.

Why are employees so frustrated about the way they are evaluated, despite all the time and money being spent on these evaluations? What are organizations missing? We believe that one clue lies in the fact that 71% of the American employees thought that their evaluations had problems in the domain of fairness.

Fairness is at the heart of enhancing employees’ work experiences. It begets numerous benefits such as employees’ satisfaction with their jobs and commitment to their companies. In the context of performance evaluations, when people believe that the outcomes of their evaluations are commensurate with how well they performed, they are likely to consider the evaluations as fair. But there is so much more that goes into people’s perceptions of fairness. Specifically, employees perceive the fairness of evaluation processes when they feel included and respected. They also consider it fair when their evaluations are accurate and are conducted based on ethical and moral principles. When employees perceive fairness in the evaluation processes, they are more likely to accept their evaluations, in which case they will digest the information contained in the evaluations and motivate themselves accordingly.

Then, the remaining question is this: what are the specific things that organizations can do to increase perceptions of fairness during the process of performance evaluations? Our research, recently accepted for publication in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, suggests that an important driver of the fairness in performance evaluations is the reference point managers use to appraise their employees’ performance. Specifically, in four studies based on the data collected from 1,024 American and Dutch employees, we compared two types of reference points.

One reference point is the focal employees’ own past performance. When employees’ current performance is compared with their past performance, managers evaluate the temporal trajectory of the employees’ achievement, thereby providing feedback on how much employees have (or have not) made progress over time. We call those temporal comparison evaluations.

Another reference point is other employees’ performance during the same period. When employees’ performance is compared with how others have done, managers evaluate how much employees have (or have not) demonstrated superiority over others. We call those social comparison evaluations.

Our findings demonstrate that employees consider temporal comparison evaluations to be fairer than social comparison evaluations. For example, in one of our studies we had participants work on a task for two rounds. The task consisted of asking participants to make HR-related predictions. After they finished their task, in one condition their manager provided evaluations that compared their performance from round two to their performance from round one; temporal comparison evaluations. In the other condition, their manager provided evaluations that compared their performance from both rounds to another person’s performance; social comparison evaluations. Then, we measured their perceptions of the fairness in the evaluation process. Participants who received temporal comparison evaluations perceived significantly higher levels of fairness than those who received social comparison evaluations. When their current performance was discussed relative to their own past performance, participants believed that the evaluations were more individualized, believing that the manager incorporated specific information about them. Thus, they considered that the evaluations were more discerning and accurate, and that they had been treated in a more respectful way.

The experience of receiving individualized evaluations was significantly weaker in the case of social comparison evaluations. Employees whose performance was compared with another person’s performance believed that while delivering such evaluations, their manager failed to account for specific details of their performance. Thus, they considered the evaluations to be less accurate. They thought that their evaluations were less respectful, perhaps because they felt like they were being treated like another face in the crowd. Importantly, these differences in the perceived fairness between temporal and social comparison evaluations were independent of the favorability of the evaluations: even when the evaluations were positive, employees perceived the process of their performance evaluations to be fairer when they received temporal comparison evaluations (“You did better than before”) rather than social comparison evaluations (“You did better than other people”).

If performance evaluations that compare employees’ performance to those of others sound unfamiliar, let us give you an example. Under the leadership of Jack Welch, General Electric ranked their employees’ performance from top to bottom, giving additional rewards to the top 20% while laying off the bottom 10%. Such evaluations might have increased the employees’ concentration and led them to exert more energy at work. However, there may have been negative repercussions, too. The employees—both at the top and the bottom—might have perceived the evaluation processes as less fair. Past research on fairness suggests that such consequences can be very costly to organizations, especially in the long run.

A counterexample comes from Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant, which is famous for evaluating their employees’ performance in terms of its temporal trajectory. The philosophy of the company is to see employees improve capabilities over time. Even though social comparisons can be used, the main focus of evaluations in Huawei is on building a culture in which each employee manages to grow and develop. Less focus on social comparisons and more on development over time is clearly articulated by their founder, Ren Zhengfei, when he noted, “I will not judge whether each team has done a good job or not, because all of you are moving forward. If you run faster than others and achieve more, you are heroes. But, if you run slowly, I won’t view you as underperformers.”

Our research provides guidance on how organizations can provide performance evaluations that seem fair. Here, managers should remember that employees have individual identities, and they want those identities to be recognized at work. By emphasizing how their performance has changed over time instead of how it fares against other people’s performance, organizations can offer what the employees want—individualized treatment—and thus achieve the goal of offering fair evaluations, which are much more likely to be embraced rather than met with scorn.


HR tech trends to help firms stay competitive

Cloud solutions provider Oracle identified three technology trends that could “potentially shake up human resources (HR) in 2018.”

Bernard Solomon, Oracle’s head of applications in Malaysia and head of human capital applications for Asean identified these three trends as artificial intelligence and machine learning; focus on predictive and prescriptive analysis; and technology revolutionizing workplace wellness.

Underscoring the importance of human resources, Solomon noted that in a service-driven economy, organizations must take care of both customers and employees to win and stay competitive.

“In this technically advanced environment, streamlined HR processes and social tools provide easy access to business insights. In turn, it can help organizations retain employees who are equipped with valuable skill sets and experience. This all leads to a win-win situation—employees will be more productive and can focus on making customers happy,” Solomon concluded.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning
Solomon emphasized that, “AI is being used to help automate tasks, predict outcomes, and in general transform our lives and our businesses for the better. HR can uncover incredible information that they might not have even known to look for. It can help in identifying hiring patterns, driving employee engagement, building better education programs, spotting trends in sick days and turnover rates, and much more.”

Specific areas that AI can be particularly helpful include the rigorous process of sifting through thousands of résumés and millions of social and digital conversations for recruiting purposes as well as scheduling interviews and juggling multiple calendars.

Predictive and prescriptive analysis
Solomon says there are two types of analytics that are useful in coming up with organizational interventions. One is predictive analytics which helps the organization foresee the attrition rate, engagement ratings, employee productivity, and the like.

And then there is prescriptive analytics which according to Solomon, “will help people uncover recommendations and solutions from the data they analyze. Therefore, in addition to identifying a pool of employees who are likely to leave over the next year, businesses will also able to identify actions they can take to address the situation quickly and efficiently.”

Revolutionizing workplace wellness
Solomon further pointed out that in engagement surveys, work life balance is always an employee’s top priority as HR’s goal is to develop and bring out the best in every employee aside from simplifying their everyday tasks.

To address this goal, Oracle developed an application called, Oracle Employee Wellness that can track an individual’s fitness activities, working hours, rest, and the like. Solomon believes that productivity increases when “a healthier employee is a happy employee.”


How Do You Engage Employees & Improve Performance?

There are only three measurements that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organization’s overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow. It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.

– Jack Welch, former CEO of GE

That quote from Jack Welch hits on the big three performance indicators for most organizations – customer satisfaction, financial sustainability, and employee engagement. While we often discuss the essentials when it comes to meeting the needs of your customers (see Want New Health Plan Contract Opportunities? Think New Marketing Model and What ‘Performance’ Should Your Team Care About? Look At Your Health Plan’s Contract) and financial sustainability (see Sustainability Management = Portfolio Management and Can Small Organizations Survive?), employee engagement can be just as vital to the success of your organization.

Last month at The 2018 OPEN MINDS Performance Management Institute, we explored the issue of employee engagement and other workforce management issues with Erik Marsh, President and CEO, DATIS HR Cloud. During his session, Mr. Marsh presented the results of DATIS’ survey of 425 health and human service executives (see Nonprofit Executive Insight To 2018 HR Trends). The survey found that among executives, the top-ranked priority for 2018 was staff engagement, identified by 67.6% of the surveyed executives. Some other interesting findings from the survey:

91% of organizations are making a conscious effort to engage employees
94% of executives believe their workforce is emotionally invested
34% of organizations have an updated employee engagement plan
Any scan of the literature supports the idea that these organizations are putting their strategic focus in the right place. Employee engagement is key to productivity. Productivity increases 20-25% in organizations with engaged employees (see The Social Economy: Unlocking Value And Productivity Through Social Technologies); internal teams with engaged team members are 21% more productive (see Managing Employee Risk Requires A Culture Of Compliance); and “high engagement” is a key feature of the highest-performing employees (see Companies Are Maximizing Only 5% Of Their Workforces).

Building a high performing team starts with an employee engagement strategy with clear actionable goals and steps to ensure that employees feel valued and engaged with their jobs. Currently only about only 34% of health and human services organizations have an updated employee engagement plan.

There are a thousand suggestions online for improving employee engagement, most of which are common sense tactics based on basic management principles – foster open communication, provide positive feedback and motivation, encourage innovation and be open to new ideas, trust employees and provide opportunities for growth, etc.

But if you are looking to update that engagement plan, the key is to understand that creating “an engaged employee” starts not with individual tactics, but organizational culture. In Deloitte’s “2017 Global Human Capital Trends” report (see Rewriting The Rules For The Digital Age), the authors advise that organizations focus on providing employees meaningful work, supportive management, positive work environments, growth opportunity, and trust in leadership, noting that a new approach to employee engagement requires a holistic approach designed around employee wellness and satisfaction.

As we move into the future, staffing challenges are not going to get to easier. Increasingly organizations are going to have to navigate complex regulatory guidelines, major cultural change surrounding value-based reimbursement, and maintaining competitive benefit packages. Executive teams should develop and update their staffing strategy and plans to address these changes. And plans should specifically take into account employee engagement.

For more on building the culture it takes to keep your employees engaged, check out these resources from the OPEN MINDS Industry Library:

  1. Building Your Connection Culture
  2. Operationalize Your Connection Culture
  3. Building A Culture Of Performance
  4. The Performance Competency & Culture Gap In Non-Profit Management Teams
  5. Staff Recognition: More Important Than Ever
  6. The New Face Of Recruiting

For even more on this topic, be sure to join us at The 2018 OPEN MINDS Strategy & Innovation Institute in New Orleans on June 6 for the session, “How To Manage A Community-Based Workforce,” featuring Naomi Weinstein, Vice President, Innovation, The Institute for Community Living; Chris Copeland, Chief Operating Officer, The Institute for Community Living; and Boris Vilgorin, Healthcare Strategy Officer, NYU McSilver Institute.


Forget financial incentives – it’s purpose and values driving the employees of the future

If there were one word that could be used to describe the employees of the future, it would be “diverse”.

Multiple generations in the workforce will collaborate globally, not only as permanent employees, but also as project workers and freelancers, managing a portfolio of tasks and choosing how, where and when they work. And although diverse, these employees will share valuable attributes, including empathy, resilience and positivity.

To truly engage these employees of the future, organisations will need to adapt structures and ways of working to harness the strength of this diversity and these personal attributes.

In his book Alive at Work, Dan Cable, professor of organisational behaviour at London Business School (LBS), asserts that people are not built for routine and repetition, but rather for exploration and experimentation. However, the way that many organisations are run prevents people from following those innate impulses – resulting in disengagement. A culture built around employee innovation, resourcefulness and diversity of thought will be key to future success.

Employees agree. Houda Hamdouch, an investment manager at Virgin Management, sees a future-proof workforce as creative, resilient and resourceful.

“At Virgin we are encouraged to truly be ourselves and embrace people who think differently,” she says. “If an organisation or an employee wants to ‘future proof’, they must be ready to challenge and be challenged. Ultimately, I believe employees can make or change a company’s culture.”

Diversity, which extends beyond race or gender to encompass generational, age, sexual orientation, personality and even functional diversity, may bring greater potential for organisational success, but it also poses risks.

From his research into leading diverse teams, Randall Peterson, professor of organisational behaviour at LBS, has concluded that the more diverse the team, the more diverse the outcome. In effect, the best performing and worst performing teams are also the most diverse.

“If you want reliable, safe homogeneity, the way to go is little diversity,” he points out. “However, if you want to be world class, you need to be diverse, but be aware that it has to be well-managed to extract that value.”

Future working environments will need to reflect this. Denisse Zavala is a software engineering manager at Pivotal Software, which employs over 2,500 people worldwide. Her ideal workspace is one that fosters collaboration and inclusion and empowers employees to do what they do best and work together towards a common goal.

“Working in diverse teams with different perspectives often produces better outcomes, so the environment must support collaboration between different teams and ways of working,” she says. “We have an open-plan office with large desks and spaces designed for ad-hoc collaboration, where teams can get together away from their desks.”

Employers will also need to understand what will motivate their future employees. Many are already driven by purpose and values rather than financial incentives.

Claire Hibbard is an applications developer at Civica, where she began her career as an apprentice. “Every employee likes to be rewarded and it doesn’t always have to be in the form of financial benefits,” she says. “We have an internal ‘praise’ system where you share your appreciation for other people’s work. This creates a great atmosphere, strengthens bonds and boosts collaboration between team members.”

For leaders looking to ensure their leadership skills are aligned with the needs of a future workforce, LBS’s Essentials of Leadership programme offers valuable guidance in leveraging their strengths, influencing people, empowering others and enabling change.

Many future employees will have their sights set on leadership. In making that career transition, they will rely on the strength of their professional networks to provide support. Herminia Ibarra, professor of organisational behaviour at LBS, has written about leadership development and the value of maintaining a far-reaching and diverse set of professional connections.

One of the biggest misconceptions people have about networking is that relationships should form naturally. However, she points out that these networks can never deliver the breadth of input that leaders need to make good decisions or influence others to share their vision. Professional networks should be diverse and developed deliberately by identifying and cultivating relationships with relevant individuals, both inside and outside of an organisation.

The right skills are fundamental to a future-proof workforce, and while nobody knows which specific skills will be needed in five or 10 years’ time, few would argue that one of the most important will be adaptability. Tom Carver, a junior planner at creative agency St Luke’s, believes this skill will be crucial for employees’ career development.

“In our industry we have to be up to date with advances in technology, current affairs, new media, and any other developments that affect the everyday consumer, so you must be constantly willing to learn, curious and highly adaptable,” he says.

St Luke’s supports employee learning and development in a number of ways. As well as conventional training sessions, a fortnightly Clever Breakfasts initiative sees some of the UK’s top creative talent come in to give talks on a range of topics, from the future of AI to the innovations in Facebook Live.

“Our strategy team circulates weekly predictions on the impact of tech development and innovations for our industry,” adds Carver. “We are kept up to date, inspired and equipped for whatever happens.”

The future of learning and skills development could involve a collaborative effort between HR, learning and development functions, and employees themselves, with access to the tools and content they need in the future world of work.

In a climate of change, organisations must ensure that their culture is one that engages and supports employees, and helps them to adapt to change. London Business School’s Executive Education programme suite includes a number of courses, both open and custom, that enable leaders to build effective learning and development strategies that will equip their employees with the skills to flourish in the future world of work and become the leaders of tomorrow.


Don’t let Decision Fatigue Create a Performance Review Disaster

As managers are increasingly expected to complete tasks outside of their primary role, they become overwhelmed. With the addition of compensation, staffing and performance processes to their priorities, it is more likely for them to suffer from decision fatigue. With more decision to make, the quality of these decisions become compromised over time.

It is no surprise that managers feel overwhelmed. In addition to the typical duties required by their nine-to-five jobs, managers are often asked to contribute to complex strategic decisions, such as whether they believe John should get that pay raise or Sue should be moved to that other project. When faced with the challenge of dedicating their attention to many important business decisions, it is not unusual for managers to show signs of decision fatigue.

Imagine going shopping for the holidays. With only three people on your list, you’re probably going to spend a lot of time thinking about the recipients’ personalities, their likes, and dislikes, and ultimately choose a thoughtful present that you know they will appreciate. Now imagine having a page-long list of people to buy for. In addition to your immediate family, you’ve been asked to choose something for your in-laws, you need something for your children’s teachers, and you want to get something nice for your assistant. You put plenty of time and thought into gifts early on, but by the time you get to choosing something for the teachers and your assistant, you feel completely drained, and end up picking up a pack of gift cards to the store on your way out.

Fortunately, holiday shopping only happens once or twice a year but for many managers, facing an exhausting number of decisions occurs on a daily basis. As a manager’s decision-making “reserve” becomes more and more depleted, the quality of their decisions will start to deteriorate.

Sources of decision fatigue

Rigorous performance management, compensation and staffing processes in which managers have to make decisions about many people in a short amount of time can leave managers vulnerable to fatigue. Worse, evaluation activities often occur in January when managers’ attention is already being devoted to various other decisions, such as plans for executing new projects.

Consequences of fatigued decision-making

Research suggests that when our brains are tired and we no longer have the cognitive resources available to think deeply about a decision, we use what are called ‘heuristics,’ or cognitive short-cuts to help us. While these strategies can save managers time and energy, they can unfortunately also result in biased and inaccurate performance reviews. For example, a fatigued manager might choose to rate everyone on her team approximately the same rather than differentiate between employees, because the former strategy is simpler and requires significantly less mental effort. Or, a manager might suggest pay increases for the employees on his team he previously identified as being top performers, only to realize later that all of these employees happened to be male.

Eliminating decision fatigue

While it is unlikely that decision fatigue would ever be completely eliminated from within organizations, there are methods that can help mitigate the negative effects of decision overload on performance reviews. One of these methods is the use of calibration talent reviews. Calibration sessions involve a group of organizational stakeholders coming together to discuss the performance of employees, and can, therefore, give managers a better understanding of the unique skills and capabilities that their employees possess. To leverage the value of calibration sessions as a method of reducing decision fatigue, it is important to include a manageable number of employees within the session, to randomize the order in which the employees are evaluated, and to include a diverse group of raters (both demographic diversity and experiential diversity).

A second method to mitigate the potential for decision fatigue is to encourage managers to engage in continuous feedback with employees throughout the year . By creating an ongoing dialogue with employees, managers are in essence “evaluating” their performance on a regular basis. By the time formal evaluations come around, managers will be better equipped to make a fair and accurate decision, and likely even need less time to do so.

Managers are asked to make hundreds of decisions every day. While some of these decisions may be relatively inconsequential, others will directly impact employees and their futures within the organization. Managers should clearly prioritize quality over quantity when it comes to performance reviews , but many organizations’ existing performance management processes leave managers no choice. In a “never off” world where managers may find it increasingly difficult to remove themselves from decision requests, it is time to take a step back and ask instead how we can make managers’ decision-making responsibilities less demanding and make their decisions more accurate and efficient.