Category Archives: employee engagement

Get Socially Responsible, HR!

Elaine Cohen, who spent 20 years in leadership positions at Procter & Gamble and Unilever, says the time is past due for HR leaders everywhere to start showing some leadership on corporate social responsibility. Rather than trying to make their companies better corporate citizens, she writes, HR has spent the past two years focused instead on carrying out layoffs and restructurings to cope with the downturn.

What does CSR actually mean when it comes to HR? According to Cohen, it can mean creating a sustainable workplace by getting employees actively engaged in efforts to reduce the organization’s carbon footprint. Too often, Cohen writes, HR is either a bystander or an impediment to such efforts. Sustainability is rarely, if ever, part of the management-development curriculum at most companies, and far too few companies emphasize the topic in their recruiting materials.

Companies that want to be winners, not losers, in the arena of employee development, retention and engagement will want to focus on sustainability, equal rights in the workplace and employee well-being in 2011, Cohen writes. Sustainability is definitely a draw for Gen Y employees, as this HRE cover story noted.

CSR in the workplace will go nowhere if the person at the top isn’t convinced, of course. But that doesn’t mean HR can’t at least try.

Paper Says HR Should Learn Engagement Lessons from Marketing

I hope this recent executive briefing from the Madison Performance Group isn’t some kind of foreshadowing — a sign that HR might soon be shedding its viability and function, piece by piece, because of its inability to “keep up.”

According to the briefing, when it comes to building a more engaged workforce — and we all know how important that has become to HR leaders in an emerging recovery — some executives have suggested that the marketing department may be better qualified than HR. Yikes.

In a release about the paper, Mike Ryan, senior vice president of Madison, a recognition and consulting firm based in New York, says the C-suite “wants HR to do more than communicate processes and procedures.” On the contrary, “top executives want HR to own the internal employee customers,” he says.

“Marketing has evolved particularly fast in using digital media to deliver messages that are more efficient and impactful,” says Ryan, who wrote the briefing. “Precision marketing practices — that build personalized relationships with the brand — have helped marketing gain new respect and status within the organization for its ability to attract, retain and leverage profitable customers.”

And here’s the kicker: “Some business leaders wonder if marketing shouldn’t also be charged with building and maintaining the corporate connection with employees,” he writes in the briefing. This one is of special concern since much of the talk I’m hearing in HR circles today is of the need for the profession to evolve into more of a strategic catalyst — through communication and talent-management strategies — for the business conversation and translation between top managers and employees to be effectively executed. Hey, if marketing’s supposed to evolve into that space, where does that leave HR?

“So back to our question,” the paper reads: “Which discipline is best prepared to manage employee engagement? The answer is simple. No discipline within any organization is more committed to the development and optimization of its workforce than the HR team. But to be truly the best at generating emotional connections that drive long-term value and loyalty, HR will need to start acting, and executing, like marketing.”

I’m not sure the HR professionals I’ve met are really ready for this.

Economical Employee Engagement

So everyone’s got the post-holiday blues, especially at the office. What to do? Luckily, Bob Kelleher has some suggestions. Kelleher, the former CHRO at AECOM (a big consulting firm based in Massachusetts), is the recent author of Louder Than Words: 10 Practical Employee Engagement Steps That Drive Results.

Here are some of his tips for re-engaging your employees:

Consider establishing a “Communication Promise,” a detailed communication protocol in which your organization’s leadership team creates a schedule of communications over the next year that will be cascaded down from the CEO to first-line managers.

Build a learning culture, even if you have limited funds. Even if you’ve cut your training budget, writes Kelleher, things like stretch assignments, mentorships, cross-sectional task teams and lunch-and-learns are all relatively inexpensive ways to foster learning and development.

Analyze your employment brand. Keller suggests getting a cross-section of top-performing employees together to determine why people work for your company. Many companies, he writes, actually have a problem with hiring, not engagement—they’re hiring the wrong type of people to succeed in their cultures.

And, finally, host a YouTube video contest. Send out Flip cameras to every company location or department and request that employees be given a chance to pick a company value and explain on-camera “what that means to me,” and award prizes for the best videos. Hopefully, no one will produce a video like the ones from this Navy captain.

Most Read Stories on HREOnline last week

See what you may have missed:

* Checking in With the Next Generation

Peter Cappelli ‘s latest Talent Management column looks at Wharton’s annual mid-term exam, which explores students’ view of their last job and the way they were managed. In most cases, management was lacking. Feedback was limited or nonexistent, and bonuses — instead of resulting in engagement and motivation — often prompted these high-potential candidates to quit or slack off. 

* Time to Re-Engage

Top businesses for HR practices — according to an exclusive recalibration of Fortune’s “Most Admired Companies” list — are taking employee engagement very seriously in this economy. (A PDF of the Top 50 Companies is here.)

E-Learning Still Trending Up

Companies continue to adopt technology-based training for employees as expenditures in training and development decreased overall last year. At the same time, the expenditure per employee actually remained stable, because the workforce was smaller.

 * Pinpointing Leadership Qualities

Social networking is changing the way HR leaders think of legal risks and recruiting opportunities, writes Susan R. Meisinger in her latest HR Leadership column. It also should make them think about the way they select high-potential candidates for leadership-development programs.

* Talking up Flexibility

Work/life balance is drawing more attention from the White House and other policymakers as research continues to show that the issue has an impact on the decisions of working families. A recent conference brought together representatives from the administration, military, academia and corporate America to attempt to drive the discussion onward.

Most Read Stories on HREOnline™ Last Week

Here’s what our readers found most interesting on HREOnline™ last week:

 Time to Re-Engage: Top businesses for HR practices — according to an exclusive recalibration of Fortune‘s “Most Admired Companies” list — are taking employee engagement very seriously in this economy.

Pinpointing Leadership Qualities: Susan Meisinger’s latest column on the way social networking is changing the way HR leaders think of legal risks or recruiting opportunities. It also should make them think about the way they select high-potential candidates for leadership-development programs.

Modifying Preconceived Notions: A study suggests millennials are happier with their bosses than many workplace observers thought; happier than baby boomers or Gen Xers. There could be many reasons for the phenomenon, experts say.

Ensuring Parity: The most significant points about complying with the Mental Health Parity Act and an update on the COBRA benefits — as modified by the economic-stimulus act — are summarized in this month’s Legal Clinic.

HR Costs Rebounding? A new report on human-capital effectiveness finds HR costs for organizations are rebounding to pre-recession levels. But does that mean the war for talent is back on? 

Survey Shows Workers Don’t Trust their DB Plans

The economy may be picking up some, but you wouldn’t know it from the latest Mercer Workplace Survey. Issued by Mercer’s outsourcing business, it found only 19 percent of participants with employer-sponsored defined-benefit plans are very confident that they will receive income from their pension plan in retirement. That figure is down from 24 percent in 2008.

Conversely, just under half of the participants are “somewhat confident” (35 percent) or “not at all confident” (11 percent) that they will receive some DB pension income. (The link in the paragraph above, by the way, explains the study a little and includes another link at the top right of the page to the complete and free PDF download).

Andrew Yerre, Mercer’s U.S. business leader, says the findings “should cause concern for any plan sponsor who offers a pension plan.”

“Clearly,” he says, the past two years of economic volatility have caused participants to become very anxious about all aspects of their retirement readiness, including pension benefits.”

Yerre says the anxiety points to a general lack of knowledge about these plans by employees. “As we know,” he says, “these types of plans can be expensive and complicated to offer and administer, and the fact that participants have such little confidence may point to a lack of understanding, trust and engagement.”

He says the findings “further suggest that DB-plan sponsors need to better educate participants around their entire retirement-plan offerings. “There is a real strategic opportunity,” he says, “for plan sponsors to not just promote the existence of DB plans, but to also highlight their long-term value as part of a total rewards and comprehensive retirement-planning program that could include a 401(k), IRA or other investments.”

Strange, for all the stories we’ve been writing in the last few years about employers implementing better and more focused communication strategies around their retirement offerings, I guess this survey suggests there are still a whole lot out there that aren’t quite there yet. Hey, no time like the present, considering the “win-win” piece to it all.

The Eternal Vacation

Better get ready for an end-of-Labor-Day-vacation “purging” of your workforce. According to a survey published in the Memphis Business Journal, 40 percent of U.S. professionals are thinking about quitting their jobs after their summer vacations.

The survey, provided by workplace supplier Regus, finds workers are tired of not being promoted, bosses that don’t share company goals and being overworked. “As workers pack up their swimsuits this summer, they are more likely to dwell on the pros and cons of the job that is waiting for them at home,” Sande Golgart, Regus’ regional vice president, is quoted as saying in the Business Journal story.

The piece also includes another recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showing productivity dropped at an annual rate of 0.9 percent during the second quarter of 2010.

Drs. Brent D. Peterson and Gaylan Nielson, co-founders of The Work Itself Group based in Salt Lake City, say these stats point to the immense drain on the economy due to large numbers of employees doing 50 percent “fake work,” defined as having no alignment with business strategy.

In a study they did in conjunction with Franklin/Covey, they cite a recent Gallup poll showing the cost of disengaged workers is estimated at $300 billion per year. They also list findings that 70 percent of employees are unable to name a single department/company goal or strategy and 50 percent of work done at the workplace does not align with a company’s vision or goals.

Not the greatest fodder for a Labor Day pep rally.

Training, the New Engagement/Retention Tool

Interesting and kind of surprising release here from Office Team citing a much larger number of HR professionals concerned about training and developing employees than those concerned about losing the top-performing ones.

Goes against much of what we’ve been hearing, that HR leaders’ top worries heading out of the recession and into the recovery are centered around keeping disgruntled employees engaged and retaining the top talent that’s already poised to leave.

But the release also includes a link to a recent Robert Half study confirming what the Office Team respondents seem to be “getting” — that post-recession employees are looking to employers more for their help in making them more marketable than as havens of job security. Makes sense that a shaky economy would have instilled in them this new sentiment.

In a survey we just conducted at HRE, which is at the heart of our upcoming Sept. 2 cover story on what’s keeping HR executives up at night, 45 percent of the 802 HR executives who responded said their most significant challenge today is the need to keep employees engaged and productive, followed by retaining key talent as the economy recovers (34 percent) and the importance of developing leaders (33 percent). In that survey, and in our story, development initiatives were cited as key tools for boosting engagement.

I think what these findings all underscore is that training and development — often relegated to the bottom rung of corporate expenditures during weak economies — now appear to be employers’ top engagement tools, topping any other morale-booster, or employee survey, or communication initiative.

Indeed, training and developing recession-weary workers — not just for your sake, but for theirs — appears to speak volumes.

A Glass Half Empty

Not much good news in the Business Barometer survey released today by The Corporate Executive Board. It reflects a drop in the optimism of HR executives — and other senior corporate leaders as well.

According to the survey, HR executives have dropped their expectations — from Q2 — of employee engagement (32 percent think employees will be less engaged) and anticipate higher turnover (54 percent compared to 39 percent in Q2). 

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of  HR leaders expect a moderate increase of one-to-four percent in average labor costs this year, while four in 10 (42 percent) expect average health benefits to increase by one-to-nine percent, with 18 percent expecting a higher than 10 percent increase.

The survey polls more than 440 senior executives in six functional business roles in North America and Europe across 33 industries.

It found that the executives expect higher revenues for their companies this year (68 percent), but fewer are optimistic about their respective industries’ growth prospects (only 50 percent say they expect their industries to grow). A majority are anxious about rising cost pressures (68 percent).

Studying an Attitudinal-Economic Relationship

I came across this recent blog post I thought I’d share. Pretty interesting work being done by Jeffrey Saltzman, CEO at OrgVitality and an affiliated fellow at the Center for Leadership Studies at the School of Management at Binghamton University in Vestal, N.Y.

He establishes some pretty compelling arguments, with research to back it up, for there being a correlation between organizational performance and the performance of a country or region. (He calls his index for this regional-performance concept Employee Confidence.)

What’s more, he asserts both those performance readings can be used predictively. He suggests some interesting linkages between what he calls “citizenry attitudes” and unemployment. He says the attitude quotient can be used to predict future unemployment figures of a region — likewise, employee attitudes at a company can be used to predict future organizational performance.

Two other conclusions of his research, which you’ll simply have to link to to see how he formed:

  • People tend to be more positive when working productively and on the whole would rather be working harder than not having enough to do. When they do not have enough to do, either at their employer or when unemployed, there is a tendency to feel that their contribution is not valued either by their employer or society.
  • The notion that creating societies with strong social safety nets, such as unemployment insurance, diminishes the desire to work does not bear out.

    Not sure what a senior HR leader can do with all this information, but I have a high degree of “blogger confidence” they’ll (you’ll) find it intriguing.