Category Archives: employee engagement

Survey: Employees Only ‘Moderately’ Engaged

The good news, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s latest Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey, is that employee satisfaction is at its highest level in 10 years, with 88 percent of respondents saying they’re satisfied with their jobs. The bad news? The number of employees who say they plan to look outside their current company for a new job is also up, at 45 percent. SHRM announced the survey results at its Talent Management Conference in Orlando earlier this week.

The keyword for holding on to employees is spelled R-E-S-P-E-C-T: 67 percent of the 600 employees surveyed ranked “respectful treatment of all employees at all levels” as “very important” to job satisfaction, followed by overall compensation/pay and benefits, job security and “opportunities to use skills and abilities,” which tied for fifth place with “trust between employees and senior management.”

As for employee engagement, actual engagement levels are little-changed from last year’s survey, said Evren Esen, SHRM’s director of survey programs, coming in at 3.8 out of 5 with 5 being the highest, showing that employees are “moderately engaged.” Satisfaction and engagement aren’t always aligned, with engagement typically tied to employees’ connection and commitment to their work and organization, she said.

One of the top factors affecting employee engagement are the engagement level of their coworkers, said Esen. “If employees don’t see those around them as being engaged, this will impact the overall level of engagement in the organization,” she said.

Being engaged means feeling that you’re an important part of the organization’s mission, she said.

“The opportunity to use their skills and competencies is of continuing importance to employees – it gives them a sense of engagement and pride,” said Esen. HR should develop a “skills matrix” for employees to get a better sense of “what they do well, not just what they do” in their everyday jobs, she said. This will make it easier to determine if there are other ways employees could be contributing and – by extension – feel a tighter connection with the organization.

“Nobody is going to feel sustained doing the same job over and over,” she said.

Dissatisfaction with their compensation and benefits was a top reason why employees plan to look for new jobs, the survey finds. Sixty three percent of employees chose overall compensation as “very important” to them, yet only 23 percent described themselves as “very satisfied” with their own compensation. Similarly, 60 percent chose overall benefits as very important, but only 27 percent said they were very satisfied with their benefits.

“Companies have only reinstated some of the cuts to benefits they made during the Great Recession,” said Esen. “Organizations really need to focus on what benefits their employees really want, and offer the ones that appeal to all demographics of their employee base.”

HR must also keep in mind the needs of a multigenerational workforce, she said.

“Millennials want their ideas to be valued and not dismissed just because they’re younger and less-experienced,” said Esen. “Boomers want to be valued for their experience, but often feel they’re not sufficiently valued for it. It’s important to keep both groups satisfied.”

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Rethinking Employer Values and Brands

Some interesting points about employer value propositions and employer brands in this recent piece by Susan LaMotte that I came 514648428 -- megaphoneacross on the HR Examiner website.

As her title makes clear, she’d like us all to start Rethinking EVP and Employer Brand Like You Never Have Before.

“We tweet, post and chat about our culture and employment experience,” she writes. “We worry about job descriptions and [applicant-tracking-system] branding. We choose just the right images for our careers site and collateral. But what exactly are we talking about?”

Here are some of her favorite descriptions, none of which really capture what makes any particular employer unique: “It’s a great place to work,” “We’ve got a great culture,”  “For me it means … ,” and “I love to work here because … .” As she puts it,

“We tend to talk in generalities and personal choices because we’re not sure what else to say sometimes. And that’s where the EVP comes in. EVPs are so often used to explain why employees work for a company. We often interchange it with employer brand. But over the years, it’s become a muddled mess. Maybe it’s time for a reset?”

First, she says, when you ask your employees what they value in their employment experience, your EVP is the sum of those common themes. Second, an employer brand is a subset of the EVP.

“If the EVP is all the things employees value,” according to LaMotte, “the employer brand is what you choose as an organization to hang your hat on when you market your employment experience.” As she describes it:

“Think about it like a new car. There are a ton of great things customers may value in the car. And things the car’s engineers think are worth touting. But the marketers at the car company know you can’t sell everything. So they have to choose. How do they choose? The same way the engineers decided what should go in the car: research. Let research be your base, then use marketing to sell.”

She goes on to lay out the best steps to take to find out what employees value most in the organization and what candidates want. Next on the list is narrowing the focus, she says:

“There are likely 10, 12, 20 themes that may comprise your EVP. Don’t try to sell a laundry list. Use your company’s core values and business strategy to narrow down your focus. And consider two key things marketers know well: You have to sell the reality [and] you have to consider what your audience wants.”

“Finally, build that brand. Once you decide what to hang your hat on, sell it over and over and over again. Weave the messages in varying ways through all those channels you’ve spent so much time on — social media, websites, job descriptions and branded platforms. Pull those messages through to job fairs, recruiter conversations and on campus. Whatever you do, just take the time to think it through.”

I ran LaMotte’s premise by the folks at the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), the Seattle-based human capital research and data firm, because much has come from that organization over the years pertaining to employer brand and EVP. Got some interesting and very thorough comments from Jay Jamrog, i4cp’s senior vice president of research:

LaMotte, he says, “correctly points out that there is a lot of confusion around the differences between employer brand, employee [and employer] value proposition and talent brand; and, they are often used interchangeably, as the article does when it trie[s] to articulate what needs to be done.”

So what does Jamrog suggest? “I believe the first step is to clearly define each term and then determine how to develop a strategy to leverage each one’s potential.” With that in mind, he says, here goes:

Employer brand:  How a business builds and packages its identity, origins and values, and what it promises to deliver to emotionally connect employees so that they, in turn, deliver what the business promises to customers.  Some of the ingredients that make up the employer brand are:

  • Company culture and history,
  • What a company stands for,
  • Work/life balance,
  • Rewards: compensation and benefits
  • Leadership and employee behaviors
  • Work environment

What to consider when developing an employer brand:

  • What employer brand you have already built?
  • How does your employer brand support your business strategy, and your talent strategy?
  • How well do your employees understand and believe in your customer brand?
  • How committed are your employees to deliver the brand to customers?

Employee [or employer] value proposition:  Articulation of the value proposition is a shorter version of the employer brand that helps potential and current workers answer the question, ‘What’s in it for me?’ In many cases, the EVP is part of the employer brand and contains many of the same characteristics.

Talent brand:  Marketing of the employer brand and/or EVP to critical talent segments of the potential and current workforce, to become known as a magnet for talent.  It’s purpose is to create demand that attracts, retains and engages the right people to do the right work at the right time with the right results.  To do this, you need to segment the workforce and determine which roles are 1) critical to the business’ success and 2) difficult skills to acquire.  Then you need to treat the talent in these critical roles as “consumers of work.” To attract consumers of work, you need a compelling brand proposition as a place to work for that special critical role/skill.

To create a talent brand you need to:

  • Have a talent strategy,
  • Develop marketing strategy,
  • Segment the workforce, and
  • Articulate your employer brand.

There you have it. Lots of definitions, descriptions and bullets in this post, but just in case it helps … or at least adds to the discussion … it’s all yours.

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Learning from Exiting Employees

Whenever we ask employment and HR experts about the value of exit interviews, they inevitably arrive at the same, logical conclusion: Departing employees can be a source of priceless advice that, if acted upon, may just save you from losing talented workers in the future.

Taking action, of course, is the key. And the problem, as the experts have always pointed out, is that some (many?) employers don’t do enough with the information gleaned from exit interviews to address the issues that soon-to-be-former workers bring to light.

Take heart, however. Menlo Park, Calif.-based staffing firm Office Team offers evidence that more companies are getting the message.

Office Team’s recent survey of more than 300 HR managers found 63 percent of these respondents saying their organization commonly acts on feedback received in exit interviews.

How are they reacting? When asked how they follow up after conducting said interviews, the most common actions were to update job descriptions (29 percent), discuss feedback regarding management (24 percent), make changes to the work environment/corporate culture (22 percent) and review employee salaries (19 percent).

The poll also asked HR managers how often their firms act on the information gathered during exit interviews. Thirty-five percent said they do “somewhat often,” while 28 percent reported taking action “very often.” Another 24 percent indicated they instigate change based on exit interview feedback “not very often,” and 13 percent said they “never” do so.

In a press release highlighting these findings, Office Team offers some tips for getting the most out of these final sit-downs with employees about to leave the organization. For example:

  • Time it well. Consider scheduling the meeting on one of the worker’s last days. Keep the conversation brief and professional.
  • Don’t make it awkward (and make sure HR is involved). Because departing employees may be uncomfortable discussing certain topics with their supervisors, have an HR representative conduct one-on-one meetings in private settings.
  • Don’t get defensive. Avoid correcting or confronting the employee, and listen carefully in order to gather as many details as possible.
  • Don’t brush things off. Give all comments that are shared the proper attention. Also, check for patterns in feedback collected from employees, which can signal persistent problems.

“The only silver lining to losing employees is obtaining useful feedback to help stem further turnover,” says Brandi Britton, an Office Team district president, in the aforementioned statement.

“Departing workers can provide valuable insights that current staff may be reluctant to share. Although not every criticism will be worth responding to, the most crucial issues should be addressed immediately to help keep existing team members happy and loyal.”

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… But What About Gen X Workers?

What will we do as the baby boomers retire en masse, and take their decades of knowledge and experience with them? And these millennials, who many projections say will soon make up nearly three-quarters of the U.S. workforce—how do we harness their considerable abilities and put them to the best use within our organization?

Organizations everywhere have wrestled with the questions and challenges surrounding these unique groups of workers in recent years.

But there’s another, large group of employees in the middle that may not receive as much attention. Some new research, however, suggests that employers would be wise to focus more on Generation X and the many assets this dedicated cohort can bring to the workplace.

As a card-carrying member of Gen X, I absolutely remember a time when we were mostly thought of as a pretty apathetic bunch with no real work ethic. (Not that we cared about these perceptions or felt like expending any effort trying to change them.) But this new survey, conducted by the Futurestep division of Korn Ferry, finds that Gen Xers—defined in the study as those born between 1965 1980—are actually the most engaged employees in today’s workforce.

Indeed, 52 percent of the 1,070 executives responding to the recent global poll said as much, compared to 23 percent saying they see boomers as the most invested in their jobs, and another 23 percent feeling the same way about Gen Y workers. (The remaining 2 percent felt those fresh-faced, barely-out-of-their teens comprising Generation Z are the most engaged.)

“While members of each generation are critical to the workforce and their diversity of thought brings new ideas and insights to companies, organizational leaders would benefit by harnessing and rewarding the hard work habits of Gen Xers,” says Andrea Wolf, Futurestep’s North American HR practice leader, in a recent statement announcing the findings.

So, what can employers offer to attract these hard workers and provide the perks that make them want to stay?

According to the survey, feeling they have “the ability to make a difference in the organization” was most important to 39 percent of Gen X-age employees in the workplace. That figure is more than double the number of respondents citing “job stability” (16 percent) or “development opportunities” (15 percent) as what matters most to these workers.

In terms of retention, 41 percent of respondents said experiencing “a sense of pride in their work” was what kept Gen Xers in their current jobs, with 24 percent most valuing “financial stability” and 23 percent prizing “company culture” above all else.

And what kind of benefits get those notoriously indifferent Gen Xers revved up about their jobs? Money helps, of course, with 48 percent of respondents pointing to “pay and bonuses” as the most important benefit to employees in this age group, followed by “paid time off,” at 25 percent, and “retirement plans,” at 19 percent.

While Gen Xers might say they want time off, don’t count on them to take it, says Wolf.

“Talk to a Gen Xer about his or her vacation, and they’ll say they’re too busy to take one, or they had to cut it short because of work,” she says. “Employers may want to consider rewards other than extended vacation time to attract and retain this group.”

Too busy at work to take vacation? Thinking about retirement? Wow, there was a time when we were too busy slacking off and obsessing over Seinfeld to even look for a job or consider our financial futures. Gen X has really come a long way.

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Not Your Father’s Factory Floor Anymore

Today’s top manufacturing firms are hardly in the category of your dad’s or granddad’s factory of yore anymore. At least, that’s 473081406 -- factory workersaccording to the latest Great Place to Work Report on this sector,  Best Workplaces in Manufacturing & Production 2016, released a week ago today.

The report cites dramatic changes in industrial production and “a new employment deal defined by high levels of trust” that are prompting companies to “retool their relationships with employees as they compete for a shrinking pool of skilled workers,” says the report’s release.

The top manufacturing and production workplace for 2016 is Houston-based energy company Hilcorp. Electronics manufacturer Tactical Electronics, headquartered in Broken Arrow, Okla., ranks second on the list of 15 firms, followed by orthopedic surgical supply manufacturer Arthrex Inc., based in Naples, Fla.

As Michael Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work, puts it, the leading manufacturing and production companies “know the game has changed.”

“The best workplaces in the industry know they can’t just churn out their products with warm bodies,” he says. “They need to focus on attracting and retaining top talent by putting people first, in a high-trust culture. That’s how they are winning in the market.”

The list is based entirely on anonymous employee feedback from more than 34,900 randomly selected employees from companies in this sector. The winners do seem to defy outdated perceptions of working in factories and manufacturing plans.

For instance, in terms of job security, 92 percent of employees at companies on the list say their leaders would lay people off only as a last resort. That’s even better than the response from people at companies on the broader ranking of the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list, which includes organizations in healthcare and technology that are experiencing much faster growth.

And forget about the stereotype of fat-cat executives in conflict with poorly paid assembly line grunts. An average 82 percent of employees at the best manufacturing and production workplaces say they receive a fair share of profits. Hilcorp, for example, gave out $100,000 bonus checks to all employees last year after it met five-year goals.

In fact, here’s the official rundown from the report of some of the neat things gong on at top-winner Hilcorp.:

  • Buy-In Incentive Plan: This unique long-term incentive program provides all full-time employees with the opportunity to build personal wealth over time by allowing them to participate in Hilcorp projects and, as the projects start generating positive cash flow, the employee begins to share in the return.
  • Bonus Program: Every employee’s annual bonus is aligned with company goals — “When Hilcorp Wins, We all Win” — and bonus payout percentages are the same for all full-time employees. Hilcorp’s bonus stretch goal is 60 percent and, during the past five years, employees have received an average of 36 percent of their base salary.
  • The Hilcorp Giving Program: The company will establish a charitable trust of $2,500 to help employees support any U.S.-based 501(c)(3) organization. Hilcorp also helps increase an employee’s giving power by providing ongoing machining gifts up to $2,000 per year. Employees have donated more than $7 million to matching charities of their choice through this program.
  • Mega Plans – BHAG’s: Every five years, Hilcorp sets a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) that is truly a stretch goal with equally audacious rewards! For example, the latest BHAG, Dream 2015, was recently achieved by doubling the rate, reserves and value in five years. Everyone received (prorated based on hire date) $100,000!!!

As a result of their employee-focused approach, companies that made the list have an average turnover rate of just 7.2 percent, much lower than the national industry average of 13 percent reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Keeping that turnover low will offer a real advantage to these companies in the years ahead, the report says. As the president of the National Association of Manufacturers recently pointed out, the sector is expected to create 3.5 million new jobs in the next decade, but a lack of skilled workers is likely to leave 2 million of them unfilled. On top of the skills deficit, the industry also faces the challenges of an aging U.S. workforce and rising labor costs in Asia that make it easier to “insource” many of the jobs that left the United States in decades past. It continues:

“In this context, the Best Workplaces in Manufacturing and Production aren’t just exceptional for their people policies. They’re at the forefront of an entire industry that will need to create high-trust work environments in order to stay competitive in the years ahead.”

And in the words of Anil Saxena, Great Place to Work partner and workplace-culture consultant:

“There’s a lot of hiring in manufacturing, and there’s a lot of demand in manufacturing. [The perception of the sector as less-than-glamorous needn’t be a barrier to retaining valuable people.] If you treat your employees with respect and you involve them in your decision making, they’ll go the extra mile for you, regardless of their job title.”

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Maersk Goes Global with New Maternity Benefits

You might say the parental-benefits bandwagon has just charged into the world arena. Copenhagen, Denmark-based Maersk Group 505017852--pregnancyannounced recently that, starting April 4, it will be implementing a new global guaranteed 18-weeks-minimum, fully paid maternity leave  for all its female employees.

Worldwide, the maternity policy would affect more than 23,000 employees. Once implemented in the United States, it will boost the current six-weeks leave to 18 for more than 1,200 women. It will also improve terms for women working for Maersk in at least 51 countries.

In addition, it will include a return-to-work program, giving onshore employees the opportunity to work 20 percent fewer hours at full contractual pay within the first year of birth or adoption.

“This new policy supports our aim to retain our talents and attract even more in the future — this way, strengthening our business results,” says Michael White, president and CEO of Maersk Line North America.

Maersk Line’s Asia Pacific Chief Robbert Van Trooijen, in a recent story on Seanews.com, says the new policy “supports our aim to retain the talented women working in the group and attract even more to gain access to future and wider talent pools … .”

The move was predicated on research conducted for Maersk by New York-based KPMG suggesting maternity-leave policies have an influence on the labor-market participation by contributing to higher employement rates of women.

The move doesn’t mark a first in the recent march by large, big-name companies to enhance parental-leave benefits in an effort to boost retention, reputation and employer brand. A search of this HRE Daily site yields numerous posts about this march, some might say race, to board the parental-leave bandwagon. So too does a search of HRE‘s website, HREOnline.com.

So will there be more bandwagon jumpers globally, what with Maersk leading the charge? I put this question to Kenneth Matos, senior director of research for the New York-based Families and Work Institute. What he had to say is worth sharing, particularly as it applies to HR leaders:

“I do believe that more multinationals will be pursuing improved maternity-leave and other benefits policies. One, because centralized and standardized benefits programs are easier to manage than a grab bag of varied policies impacted by an array of international legal frameworks. Offering everyone a high-end multinational program is easier to manage, avoids lawsuits from accidentally violating a country’s laws with a policy legal in another country, and avoids organizational culture clashes as employees around the world compare their benefits.”

He goes on:

“I believe that a single, affordable, multinational benefits program is the holy grail of the benefits industry. Second, there has been a recent wave of organizations attempting to outdo each other on employee benefits. The battle for talent is reigniting as the predicted retirement boom begins to pick up steam — reducing the size of the workforce –and more jobs require uncommon skills that take years of education or experience to cultivate — a major problem for a shrinking labor force.

“Organizations will want to be seen as leaders and many HR executives and benefits teams should prepare for calls from senior executives to benchmark their benefits programs against their competitors.  It is essential for HR executives to keep cool heads and examine their benefits in terms of what their people want and need rather than offering extensive benefits just to make a social or political statement. Especially if the organizational or local  cultures will suppress the usage of these elaborate offerings or interest will wane over time and leaders might call for a reversal if the benefits structure doesn’t work for their organization and staff.”

Sounds like advice worth heeding, or at least considering.

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Bill Gates’ Ruthless Management Style of Yore

DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 26JAN12 - William H. Gates III,  Co-Chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USA captured during the session 'Global Economic Crisis: Role and Challenges of the G20' at the Annual Meeting 2012 of the World Economic Forum at the congress centre in Davos, Switzerland, January 26, 2012. Photo by Sebastian Derungs

Bill Gates at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 26, 2012. Photo by Sebastian Derungs

These days Bill Gates is known primarily as the benevolent overseer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the philanthropic vehicle through which the world’s richest man (estimated net worth: $56 billion) tackles poverty and disease and seeks to improve education. But back in the early days of Microsoft, Gates was known as a fearsome manager.

“I worked weekends, I didn’t really believe in vacations,” Gates recently told an interviewer for the BBC’s Desert Island Discs program, in which celebrities disclose which music and books they’d take with them to a desert island. This work-all-the-time mindset was applied to his employees, too: “I knew everybody’s license plate so I could look out at the parking lot and see, you know, when people come in.”

Peter Holley, a writer for the Washington Post, recently compiled some anecdotes about Gates’ old management style from people who worked with him. The stories suggest a man for whom work/life balance wasn’t just an afterthought, but a  totally alien concept. This is in stark contrast, of course, to the professed mindset of so many of today’s New Economy companies that are offering unlimited paid family leave, for example.

He cites Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who wrote a piece for Vanity Fair a few years ago about how Gates would “prowl” the parking lots on weekends to see who had come in to work. One employee put in 81 hours in one week finishing a project, only to be asked by Gates “What are you working on tomorrow?” When the employee replied that he was planning on taking the day off, Gates asked “Why would you want to do that?”

“He genuinely couldn’t understand it; he never seemed to need to recharge,” Allen writes.

Gates also had a harsh leadership style that included the frequent deployment of f-bombs, with one of his favorite sayings being “That’s the stupidest f—- thing I’ve ever heard!” writes Allen.

These days people with a management style like Gates’ are condemned as “toxic bosses.” But the sentiment is hardly universal. Holley notes that the authors of the book Primal Leadership described Gates’ style in a Harvard Business Review essay as “harsh” and yet, “Gates is the achievement-driven leader par excellence, in an organization that has cherry-picked highly talented and motivated people. His apparently harsh leadership style — baldly challenging employees to surpass their past performance — can be quite effective when employees are competent, motivated and need little direction — all characteristics of Microsoft’s engineers.”

Of course, Steve Jobs was another tech titan with a famously acerbic management style, one that reportedly left many people in tears (interestingly enough, Jobs himself also cried frequently, according to Walter Issacson’s biography Steve Jobs). Gates and Jobs are visionaries, the type who attract people willing to forgo things like having family time, or being treated with some semblance of respect, in the furtherance of building a company or product they believe will change the world (the promise of hefty stock options no doubt can make it a little more bearable, too). But visionaries don’t have to be nasty in order to get people to accomplish great things — and even Gates himself has acknowledged he’s changed and mellowed a lot in the intervening years. With the rise of social media, I would suspect it’s a bit harder to get away with a management style like that today and still be able to attract great candidates.

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Not So Hot on Holacracy at Zappos?

Many of us were introduced to the concept of holacracy by way of Zappos, which famously began phasing in this management model—or non-management model, as it were—in 2013.

Zappos’ adoption of holacracy—which eliminates managers and distributes authority among sovereign, self-organizing teams—was greeted by observers as a big and bold step. The move might have seemed even more radical had it been made by most any CEO not named Tony Hsieh.

In his 15 years at the helm of the Las Vegas-based online shoe and clothing store, Hsieh has earned a reputation for employing innovative and unconventional people practices. His progressive approach has worked too, as Zappos has become an online retail giant and one of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For.”

It’s no secret, however, that holacracy hasn’t been universally embraced by the Zappos workforce.

This past April 8, Hsieh sent a memo notifying his approximately 1,500 employees that the organization would be accelerating its implementation of the holacracy system, which Hsieh felt wasn’t moving quickly enough. The following month, the company reported that 210 workers would be leaving voluntarily, rather than sticking around to see how this whole holacracy thing works out.

Fast forward eight months, and it seems that many Zappos employees still aren’t sold.

A recent Atlantic article reports that 18 percent of Zappos’ staff has taken buyouts in the last 10 months, bringing the company’s 2015 turnover rate to 30 percent—10 percent above Zappos’ typical annual attrition rate.

The same piece delves into the possible reasons why this new manager-free structure may be driving workers away, and concludes that the system might be doing as much to confuse employees as it is to empower them.

To wit: Atlantic Associate Editor Bourree Lam references a 2015 New York Times article in which payroll employees shared their struggles in determining salaries once holacracy was put in place and job titles were effectively abolished at Zappos.

For its part, Zappos maintains that holacracy and its disdain for traditional hierarchies has had little bearing on recent turnover rates.

In fact, a Jan. 15 statement posits that last year saw employees leaving in larger-than-usual numbers “not because of anything related to holacracy or Teal, but because the economics of the offer were too good to pass up.”

(“Teal,” if you’re wondering, is the state of self-organization that author Frederic Laloux describes in his 2014 book Reinventing Organizations. Within Zappos, the “Teal Offer” is a version of the company’s long-standing proposal in which employees who aren’t 100 percent on board with the organization’s plans for the future can opt for a buyout. In the aforementioned memo, Hsieh announced that those who felt the new self-management style wasn’t for them would be offered at least three months’ severance if they chose to leave.)

According to this statement, the company says the 10 percent spike in turnover in 2015 “was mostly due to us giving long-time employees the opportunity to pursue their dreams.”

For example, some long-time employees were offered more than a year of severance or one month for every year worked, whichever was greater. Meanwhile, other veteran workers were offered the same severance, as well as the chance to rejoin Zappos after 12 months, which “allowed people the opportunity to pursue their new startup ideas, or take time off to take care of that sick relative, for example.”

That may smell a bit like spin, but Zappos maintains that the number of employees who have taken “The Offer” is in line with what the company expected.

Be that as it may, the retailer has certainly taken a hit since adopting holacracy, losing more than 200 workers and evidently ruffling the feathers of at least some who stayed.

It will be interesting to see how, if at all, the hoopla surrounding holacracy affects Zappos’ employment brand beyond the short-term. Given Hsieh’s track record, I think it’s a safe bet that Zappos will fully recover. Lam seems to agree.

“ … It’s clear,” she writes, “that Zappos is going through a rough transition—one that it anticipated, and one that could make it stronger in the end.”

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The Perils of Anonymous Feedback

A number of firms have reached out to us recently about their internal feedback tools, which they say can increase engagement and improve performance by letting employees send their colleagues kudos or offer constructive criticism. Now that “continuous performance management” is officially a thing, it would seem that the time is ripe for HR leaders to push for rolling out these tools within their organizations.

They might want to proceed cautiously, however, after reading Quantum Workplace’s Natalie Hackbarth, who reminds her readers that the New York Times’ less-than-flattering expose on Amazon’s workplace culture last August included details of how employees used the company’s Anytime Feedback Tool to slam and criticize each other, leading to what sources described as a “bruising workplace” and “purposeful Darwinism.”

Now if “purposeful Darwinism” is the sort of workplace culture that you and your CEO are aiming for, then have at it. For everyone else, Hackbarth included some advice and perspective from industry thought leaders on the lessons learned from Amazon’s experience.

Here’s Bersin by Deloitte’s Josh Bersin on the matter:

“Our research shows that companies that value open feedback and communication outperform their peers. This does not mean, however, that an anonymous feedback tool should let employees do away with respect, honesty, confidentiality, and fairness. We urge companies that use these tools to set guidelines in place, and communicate that nobody should say anything online that they would not say in person.”

And here’s Paul Hebert, an engagement and recognition consultant:

No one ever erred by underestimating human behavior. I’m sure that when Amazon did this some guru said it was the future of employee reviews—transparent and real time. This is why we shouldn’t blindly follow outliers and try to emulate who we ‘think’ is doing it right. Yes, even Amazon can make big mistakes. Transparency without accountability is a cesspool.”

And finally, here’s John Whitaker, of HR Hardball, whose last line I find especially memorable:

“Many business leaders will see this as a justification for not employing feedback tools that offer a wonderful way to build engagement. This story only justifies the paranoia many already feel about an open forum for employees to vocalize. Don’t bury the lead, though—the real story is the reflection on Amazon’s culture. When you create a culture of fear, don’t hand the inmates a shiv.”

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HR Tech Trends to Watch in 2016

“Nobody comes here anymore, it’s too crowded” is one of dozens of quotes from the former New York Yankees all-star catcher Yogi Berra who passed away earlier this year at age 90. The shelf-life and trendiness of many Yogi-isms will sustain due to their classically oxymoronic and clever nature.

ThinkstockPhotos-176693623Unlike Yogi’s quotes, which adorn many a wall and office desk, the factors that influence the appeal, stickiness, impact and longevity of industry trends are a bit more complicated to hypothesize about. In the HR technology domain, for example, some trends take longer to get adopted and explode than others, even when the expected business impact is comparable. Case-in-point: Contrast the take-up of mobile HR technology with that of predictive HCM or people analytics. Both of these trends get much attention, but degree of deployment and usage across organizations varies considerably.

Various operational dependencies can drive which trends take off or not. These include competencies on-hand—e.g., the ability to properly interpret and analyze data and build related frameworks in the case of people analytics adoption; and ability to expertly market a “case for change” if an HR transformation effort is in order. These seem straightforward, but trend adoption dynamics also extend to how the trend is being promoted, and by whom. A grass roots promotion by HR customers and professionals who are positively impacted by a certain trend, combined with effective marketing campaigns by vendors, is a surefire way of giving a trend legs that are both quick and sustainable.

Below are two trends I’ve excerpted from a new White Paper I co-authored entitled “HR Technology Trends to Watch in 2016.” The paper contains nine such trends that are poised to pick up considerable steam.

Technology-Enabled Talent-Management Science. Sierra Cedar recently found that 39 percent of organizations were now involved in some form of talent-management analytics. Great news, but not a panacea, as the lack of analytics-related competencies (e.g., to define the frameworks, interpret data, identify predictive relationships, etc.) persists in most HR departments. That dynamic aside, we should expect to soon see HCM systems guide users as to where to look for relationships across their data ecosystem.  Case in point: An increase in employee turnover might have the system highlight factors that have contributed to higher turnover in the past; e.g., a change in compensation or benefits, cutting back on management training, retirement or even restructuring activities that should perhaps not be counted as regular turnover, using less effective sourcing channels or more aggressive time-to-fill target metrics, etc.

Personalized Engagement and Retention Plans. With three generations working side-by-side for the first time, it is more critical than ever to personalize how employees are managed and through what rewards and recognition levers, basically to the extent of having personalized engagement and retention plans for all key employees. What each employee values in their work experience and career journey over time, in addition to personality tests and team culture or compatibility indicators, might soon become staples within enterprise HCM solutions going forward. Letting a high-potential employee be exposed to different parts of the business might cost almost zero, but, in the end, could be a more effective engagement driver and retention hook than a larger bonus for many.

Steve Goldberg, a principal within Ramco’s HCM practice, has been a global head of HR systems, vice president of HCM product strategy, change-management firm co-founder, industry analyst and HR tech advisor.

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