Category Archives: employee engagement

This Just In: Change is Awful

The saying goes that “change is inevitable.” But when it comes to the workplace, Americans would rather have none of it, according to the results of a brand-new survey from the American Psychological Association.

Employees in the U.S. who’ve been affected by change at work are more likely to report chronic work stress, less likely to trust their employer and more likely to say they plan to leave the organization within the next year compared to those who haven’t been affected by organizational change, according to the APA’s 2017 Work and Well-Being Survey, which is based on responses from 1,500 U.S. adults and was conducted on behalf of the APA by Harris Poll in March.

Half of American workers report having been affected by organizational change within the last year, are currently being affected by such change or expect to be affected by it within the next year, the survey finds. Workers experiencing recent or current change were more than twice as likely to report chronic work stress compared with employees who reported no recent, current or anticipated change (55 percent vs. 22 percent), and more than four times as likely to report experiencing physical health symptoms at work (34 percent vs. 8 percent).

Workers reporting recent or current change also were much more likely than other respondents to say they experienced work/life conflict and felt cynical and negative toward others during the workday (35 percent vs. 11 percent) and ate or smoked more during the workday than they did outside of work (29 percent vs. 8 percent).

There’s plenty more in the survey results, much of it dispiriting and depressing. The upshot seems to be that too many U.S. workplaces appear to be afflicted with leaders who’ve adopted a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality. However, this article that ran in McKinsey Quarterly a number of years ago (published by the consulting powerhouse McKinsey) offers some interesting food for thought that holds true today. One of its important points, as you may already know, is that people need to understand the point of change–why something is being changed, their role in helping the change succeed and how all of it will lead to better conditions for both themselves and the larger organization. The theme is that while change may be inevitable, the negative side effects shouldn’t be and don’t have to be.

 

Wearables and Wellness Programs

If you’ve been wondering how to seamlessly integrate wearable devices into your wellness programs, the Health Enhancement Research Organization has some success stories to share.

In a new report, HERO includes findings from three case studies of organizations that, combined, employ more than 60,000 people, “and whose incorporation of wearables into their wellness program reflects a comprehensive, results-oriented approach,” according to a statement from the Waconia, Minn.-based organization.

Each of the employers that participated—BP, Emory University and Ochsner Health System—took a different path to achieve positive results, but also showed some “clear commonalities” in the way they implemented wearables as part of their wellness plans, such as sound communication strategies, encouraging long-term use of wearables and making them financially feasible for employees, for example.

The report identified a handful of promising practices for organizations that have added wearables to their wellness initiatives, or are planning to do so, including giving or subsidizing devices for employees rather than requiring them to buy their own; involving spouses and domestic partners to increase participation and create a support system outside the workplace; and using a pilot program before expanding the use of wearables to include the entire workforce.

Emory relied on the latter approach when it rolled out its wearables program in 2014, with a pilot program at five sites. According to HERO, Emory made modifications and offered wearables to all Emory University and Emory Healthcare employees the following year, based on the results of the initial pilot program.

When Emory expanded the program, 6,300 Emory employees participated in the university’s Move More Challenge, with 82 percent of them remaining active for its eight-week duration. In a post-program survey, 67 percent of participants said it was the first time they used a wearable device, with 82 percent reporting that they used one every day of the challenge.

Such results only hint at the potential in using wearables as a component of comprehensive workplace wellness programs, says Jessica Grossmeier, vice president of research at HERO, stressing the need to “continue our focus on research that uncovers what works and what doesn’t.

“Early research supports that a device, on its own, will not change health behaviors over the long-term,” continues Grossmeier. “That’s why we’re focused on identifying those leading-edge strategies that employers can use to ensure an effective, safe and engaging approach for employers and individual participants.”

 

Once Burned, Twice Shy

Once workers are laid off from a job, they’re more likely to quit their next job — and their next, and the one after that and probably the one after that, as well. That’s according to new research from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, which compared workers’ “quits” prior to and after a layoff and determined that people who’d been laid off were 65-percent more likely to quit subsequent jobs.

They may also be likelier to quit their second, third and fourth jobs after the layoff, Paul Davis, assistant professor of HR studies at Cornell’s ILR School, told Bloomberg BNA. Davis, who conducted the research, studied the work histories of 2,500 people who were laid off to determine what effect the experience may have had on their subsequent careers. People who were laid off tend to feel less committed to their subsequent employers, keep a close eye on the external market and are more vigilant about new job opportunities, he said.

Layoffs are traumatic not just for the people who lose their jobs, but for their colleagues who stay on, Davis told Bloomberg BNA. In addition to having to take on the extra work previously done by those laid off, these employees may also feel resentful toward their employer for how their former coworkers were treated while harboring fear that they could be the next to receive a pink slip. They may also be more likely to look for new opportunities, jumping ship when they can, he said.

Companies faced with the need for cost-cutting should think long and hard before resorting to layoffs and consider alternatives first, said Davis. When a layoff is deemed necessary, he said, HR should be as open and honest with the “survivors” as they can, and explain why they’re critical to the success of the organization.

 

The End of Telecommuting?

For many IBM employees, telecommuting will soon be a distant memory.

“Disrupt” is a catchy term in business these days, especially in the technology industry. Now one of the nation’s oldest and most prominent technology companies is disrupting what had become a common method of working for many of its employees: Thousands of IBM employees who telecommute are being called back to the office, and those who can’t or are unwilling to will be expected to find employment elsewhere.

Big Blue’s U.S. marketing department is the latest unit at IBM to announce that employees will now be “co-located” in central offices rather than working from home or in remote locations. The department, comprised of 2,600 employees, will now consist of teams working together at one of six offices located in Boston, New York, Raleigh, Atlanta, Austin and San Francisco.

Ironically enough, IBM was a pioneer in the telecommuting revolution, as noted in a story in Quartz. As recently as 2009, writes author Sarah Kessler, 40 percent of the company’s 386,000 global employees worked at home. When IBM acquired start-ups, the employees at those companies were allowed to continue working in their original locations rather than moving to central IBM offices.

Michelle Peluso, IBM’s chief marketing officer, tells Kessler that the benefits of employees working together in the same offices include “speed, agility, creativity and true learning experiences within your team.” “When you’re playing phone tag with someone is quite different than when you’re sitting next to someone and can pop up behind them and ask them a question,” she said.

Kessler cites studies showing a “water cooler effect” that arises from people working together in the same location — informal interactions that can lead to the sharing of ideas and more collaboration. CEOs such as Steve Jobs were big fans of co-location. Jobs, in fact, was so obsessed with the benefits that arise from unplanned meetings between coworkers that he wanted to place the bathrooms at Pixar’s headquarters in just one section of the building to increase the likelihood of those serendipitious interactions, Kessler writes.

IBM is struggling to reinvent itself, she writes, as the rise of cloud computing forces it and other large technology companies to rethink their business strategy. Its leaders believe having employees work together instead of remotely will better enable the sort of collaboration and increased productivity that’s desperately needed.

Of course, coworking has proven not to be a panacea for troubled companies in the past — just look at Yahoo, where CEO Marissa Mayer announced back in 2013 that telecommuting would no longer be allowed. Yahoo recently sold itself to Verizon for a tiny, tiny fraction of what it was once worth. Many IBM employees are distraught by the new arrangement: “Everyone I know is very upset,” one employee tells Kessler.

Other employees think co-location is an improvement over teleworking. “I think that getting everyone in a room, hashing it out, throwing it up on a whiteboard is my preference rather than doing share screens,” an employee tells Kessler. “People pay attention so much less when on the phone.”

That employee, however, is choosing to quit rather than make the move, Kessler writes.

Make Those Vacation Plans Today

Just a heads up that, if you’d like to join forces with the Entertainment Benefits Group and Project: Time Off in encouraging employees to take all their vacation time, today (Tuesday) is the day to get them poring over their calendars.

Both groups have joined together in a Jan. 31 “call to action” for more American workers to get a “jumpstart on planning their vacation,” according to this release from the EBG. In the words of Brett Reizen, president and CEO of EBG:

“[Our] mission is to bring fun and happiness to people’s lives by providing employees nationwide direct access to special offers on top travel and entertainment products across the country. Living in a work-driven culture where vacation and time off is essential, we embraced the chance to … foster work/life balance, boost employee happiness and increase productivity in the workplace.”

(EBG, a U.S. corporate travel and entertainment benefits program, will support the initiative by providing employers and their employees access to exclusive offers on premier travel and entertainment experiences through its corporate programs division — TicketsatWork, Plum Benefits and Working Advantage.)

PTO’s release on the big day tomorrow is full of some stats from a recent survey it conducted that you might find interesting — if not alarming — such as:

“Americans leave 658 million days unused each year. The single-most important step workers can take is to plan their time off in advance. Yet less than half — 49 percent — of households set aside time to plan the use of their vacation time each year.”

Also, according to the PTO research, 51 percent of those who plan their vacation took all of their time off, where just 39 percent of non-planners did, and 69 percent of planners took a week or more of vacation time, where just 46 percent of non-planners did.

We’ve posted our own vacation red flags and statistics for employers here on HRE Daily, including the huge number of “under-vacationed” employees and some of the reasons for it, such as the fact that others in the workplace — managers and co-workers — tend to shame vacation-takers.

If reading up on the merits of enforcing or, at least, encouraging the taking of all allotted vacation time, consider these additional stats from PTO’s research:

  • The time spent planning correlated with greater happiness in nine categories, including:

    • 85 percent of planners report they are happier with their relationships with their significant other, compared to 72 percent of non-planners.
    • 69 percent of planners, compared to 60 percent of non-planners, report being happy with their relationships with their children.
    • 81 percent of planners say they are happy with their financial situation, compared to 71 percent of non-planners.
    • 90 percent of planners are happy with their professional success, compared to 82 percent of non-planners.

Now, whether taking vacations led to this increased happiness and success or happy, successful people are the ones more likely to take all of their vacation time is unclear.

What is clear, to me anyway, is employers have nothing to lose and a lot to gain, including in employee productivity and engagement, by making sure employees are getting out of the office as much as they’re entitled to.

Holiday Bonuses Up This Year

the best gift- money. Gifts on wooden background.The holidays will bring a little extra cheer for many workers this season, with two thirds (66 percent) of companies planning to award year-end bonuses and gifts, according to a survey from Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That’s up from 50 percent from Challenger’s 2015 holiday bonus survey.

Another survey, this one from recruiting firm Accounting Principles, finds that 75 percent of companies will award bonuses this year. Thirteen percent of companies will provide bonuses of between $1 and $99, 37 percent  between $100 and $499, 21 percent will provide between $500 and $899, and 29 percent will be awarding their lucky employees $1,000 or more.

Credit the steadily improving economy for the rise in bonuses, says Challenger, Gray & Christmas CEO John Challenger. “As [the economy] continues to improve, employers will have to rely increasingly on bonuses and other perks to hold onto valuable employees,” he said in a statement.

Full results of the Challenger survey below:

Does your company award year-end/holiday bonus, perks or gifts to employees? (Check all that apply)

2016 2015
Yes, we provide a non-monetary gift to all employees (such as gift basket or extra vacation day). 14.8% 6.3%
Yes, we award a nominal ($100 or less) monetary award to all employees (cash or gift certificate). 11.1% 12.5%
We award a monetary bonus to all employees, the size of which is determined by the company’s overall performance throughout the year. 18.5% 18.8%
We award a performance-based year-end bonus to selected employees, the amount of which is determined by individual’s contribution to departmental and/or company-wide objectives. 22.2% 37.5%
No, we do not award any type of year-end/holiday monetary or non-monetary bonus/perk/gift. 29.6% 43.8%
No, we have awarded year-end/holiday bonuses in the past, but we will not be doing so this year due to the economy. 0.0% 0.0%
Other 3.7% 6.3%

 

If your company does award year-end/holiday bonus, perks or gifts to employees, please describe how this year’s distribution differs from last year.

2016
The monetary value of the year-end bonus will increase. 18.2%
The monetary value of the year-end bonus will decrease. 9.1%
The monetary value of the year-end bonus will be about the same as last year. 72.7%
We are reinstituting year-end bonus/perk/gift after one or more years of not offering such awards. 0.0%

 

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

Just How Bad Are We at Engagement?

dv2171020Engagement was certainly on the minds of speakers and attendees at the recent HR Tech Conference in Chicago. (Here’s a link to the conference site, FYI, which already has information about next year’s event.)

From this session covered by Mark McGraw, Engaging the Talent of Tomorrow, to this one covered by David Shadovitz, What’s Driving Engagement, there seemed to be a lot of buzz about what’s working at some companies (especially in McGraw’s post), what needs to be happening in terms of technology, training and the treatment of employees (particularly in Shadovitz’s post), and a whole lot more.

One study released at the conference but not mentioned yet came from Saba, showing just how bad companies still are at simply carrying out the basics — not only in terms of engagement, but overall management tactics too. That survey, completed in August, shows most businesses are “not in tune with their employees’ perceptions of engagement, training and career development,” according to Saba’s release.

With so much attention being paid to the need for keeping employees engaged, retained and productive, you’d think most companies are at least asking for more feedback, or figuring out better ways to ask for more feedback. Saba says no, that is not happening much at all.

For the most part, the report says, companies do not have continuous channels for engagement and feedback because the majority of employees are rarely asked for their feedback — less than a few times a year. Other highlights of the August survey of 1,200 U.S. HR managers and employees include these two points, suggesting some troubling gender issues wrapped up in all this:

  • Sixty-eight percent of baby boomers and 61 percent of female employees indicated they were rarely asked for feedback, versus 56 percent of male employees.
  • At the same time, women were also less comfortable giving their input. The survey showed only 56 percent of women are comfortable giving feedback, compared to 63 percent of men. “This implies a statistical disconnect that needs to be immediately addressed by HR and learning teams,” the report says.

Another gem from the release:

“Based on these statistics and anomalies in engagement, it’s understandable why more than half of HR leaders (51 percent) and employees (52 percent) believe their organizations do not have a good employee-feedback process.”

In terms of initiating better training programs to keep employees producing and staying put, companies aren’t doing so good there, either. Only 22 percent of employees believe their organizations are very effective in providing easy access to training and development.

What’s more, 86 percent of millennials, often the highest flight risk in the organization, indicated they would be more inclined to stay at their current company if they were given access to quality training and development. So what’s the holdup here? As Theresa Damato, vice president of global marketing at Saba, sees it:

“While most organizations will agree that talent is their most important asset, [this] survey highlights the struggle many have in effectively engaging, assessing and developing their people.

“Organizations need to focus on the critical role continuous development plays in employee engagement and retention. They also need to find new ways to improve effectiveness of talent programs through more frequent and consistent feedback channels.”

And for the most part, she and others at Saba indicate, that is hardly happening at all.

Except, it would seem, in the handful of success stories — or at least stories of successful starting points and strategic approaches — shared at HR Tech.

My guess is, if we’re doing this bad at the feedback basics, then this engagement conundrum/roadblock is  going to be on the minds of attendees and the agendas of many conferences to come.

Being a Black Professional Woman

I’m probably wrong going into this: posting something about what it’s like to be a black woman in corporate America when I’m white.

523400310-black-professional-womanI probably don’t get extra points for being a member of a mixed-race family
either. In today’s
hypersensitive, hyper-volatile,
racially divisive
environment, I tend to shy away from my biracial nephew’s political Facebook posts and stick to our shared summer-vacation pictures, and our beautifully diverse family updates. What right have I to even “Like” something I can’t possibly know?

But I decided to post this release anyway, about a documentary airing this coming Wednesday in Oakland, Calif., Head Not The Tail Productions’ Invisible Women: Being a Black Woman in Corporate America. Not because I’m vying for any points, but because what happens to black women in or pursuing corporate careers should be something we all take seriously. And dealing with it should be all our jobs as well.

The disappointment, discrimination and rejection described by the many women in the documentary (the link above includes another link to a short teaser trailer worth watching) is often subtle, say diversity experts, as is corporate unconscious bias, which we’ve reported on on our website and here on HRE Daily.

“In conducting the research, we found the corporate practice of discrimination to be a common harsh reality faced by countless women of color,” says Melody Shere’a, HNTT Productions’ founder and CEO, and director of the film. As her release states,

“The playing field isn’t level and well-qualified black women are too frequently denied the opportunity to explore similar career-growth opportunities as their white and other female counterparts. The facts and details you will learn from this documentary will surprise you.”

Granted, most of you are nowhere near Oakland, Calif., but I imagine a call to Shere’a at the number provided in her release would prove fruitful in getting your hands on the film. It’s worth a try. You can’t improve diversity in your corporate culture if you don’t fully understand all forms of discrimination and how they’re being perceived by those on the receiving end.

For that reason, I encourage you to give this a read as well, a professional black woman’s response to a white friend of hers asking for a better understanding of white privilege. Like the documentary, this piece by Lori Lakin Hutcherson, founder and editor-in-chief of Good Black News, centers on the subtleties she has had to contend with throughout her career — including her education at Harvard University. As she details for her friend:

“When I got accepted to Harvard — as a fellow AP student, you were witness to what an academic beast I was in high school, yes? — three separate times I encountered white strangers as I prepped for my maiden trip to Cambridge that rankle to this day.

The first was the white doctor giving me a physical … .:

Me: ‘I need to send an immunization report to my college so I can matriculate.’

Doctor: ‘Where are you going?’

Me: ‘Harvard.’

Doctor: ‘You mean the one in Massachusetts?’

The second was in a store, looking for supplies I needed from Harvard’s suggested ‘what to bring with you’ list:

Store employee: ‘Where are you going?’

Me: ‘Harvard.’

Store employee: ‘You mean the one in Massachusetts?’

The third was at UPS, shipping off boxes of said ‘what to bring’ to Harvard. I was in line behind a white boy mailing boxes to Princeton and in front of a white woman sending her child’s boxes to wherever:

Woman, to the boy: ‘What college are you going to?’

Boy: ‘Princeton.’

Woman: ‘Congratulations!’

Woman, to me: ‘Where are you sending your boxes?’

Me: ‘Harvard.’

Woman: ‘You mean the one in Massachusetts?’

I think: ‘No … the one downtown next to the liquor store.’ …

The point here is, if no one has ever questioned your intellectual capabilities or attendance at an elite institution based solely on your skin color, this is white privilege [or bias, as some might say].”

A later example comes from Hutcherson’s work as a film and television writer/producer:

“While writing on a television show in my 30s, my new white male boss — who had only known me for a few days — had, unbeknownst to me, told another writer on staff he thought I was conceited, didn’t know as much as I thought I did, and didn’t have the talent I thought I had.  And what exactly had happened in those few days?  I disagreed with a pitch where he suggested our lead female character carelessly leave a pot holder on the stove and burn down her apartment. This character being a professional caterer.

“When what he said about me was revealed months later — by then he’d come to respect and rely on me — he apologized for prejudging me because I was black and female. I told him — not unkindly, but with a head shake and a smile — that he was ignorant for doing so and clearly had a lot to learn. It was a good talk because he was remorseful and open. [The subhead of her piece, by the way, is “Nobody is mad at you for being white.”]

“But the point here is, if you’ve never been on the receiving end of a boss’ prejudiced, uninformed ‘how dare she question my ideas’ badmouthing based solely on his ego and your race, you have white privilege.”

If ever there was a compelling treatise on what goes on between the races inside our buildings of business as opposed to the far-more-combustible streets below, especially over the past year, this is it.

Hutcherson’s last example, especially, should give us all pause: Perhaps the only way to shore up the divides, even at their most subtle, is to start — whether we’re the CEO, the head of HR or a direct supervisor — by admitting that certain behaviors or patterns of communication that are allowed to exist in business today are just wrong. Then start the conversation.

And then the training, if necessary.

What’s Driving Engagement

Engagement continues to be a hot topic. So I guess it’s no surprise to find at least two vendors at this year’s HR Tech Conference unveiling research studies on the topic.

thinkstockphotos-460766179For starters, Oracle released its first Global Engagement Study earlier this week.

According to feedback from 5,000 full-time employees at a variety of organizations, 40 percent of the respondents said their employers could do more to leverage technology to better enable them to do their jobs.

Employees as consumers are more plugged into technology than ever—so they expect the same level of accessibility at work that they get in their personal lives, says Gretchen Alarcon, group vice president of HCM product strategy at Oracle.

The research found that the quality of the digital working experience impacts how much employees feel they are empowered to do their job.

As you might expect, the research also revealed leadership can be a huge driver when it comes to engagement.

“One of things we learned is that leadership availability really matters,” says Alarcon. “Do employees have the ability to ask questions? Are they approachable? Do they feel trusted [by their leaders]? All of these can have a direct impact on engagement.”

The study, based on 4,706 interviews conducted earlier this year by Kantar TNS, found that 47 percent of the respondents consider their leaders visible and approachable and 44 percent have confidence in the company’s leadership, suggesting that plenty of room for improvement remains.

Meanwhile, Ultimate Software released the results of its 2016 National Study on Satisfaction at Work survey, a study of 1,000 American workers conducted this summer by The Center for Generational Kinetics. This study found that trust, open communication and development opportunities play an increasingly important role in influencing employee satisfaction and commitment. Indeed, these factors typically had equal or greater importance than compensation or financial motivators.

“What the research showed us was that the No. 1 driver of employee satisfaction is how companies treat their employees,” says Adam Rogers, chief technology officer of Ultimate. (Rogers shared some of the findings in an Ideas & Innovators presentation at the conference earlier today.)

Exactly three-quarters of the employees surveyed said they were more likely to stay with a company longer if their concerns were heard and addressed, and 73 percent said they were more likely feel satisfied with their organization if it were to invest in their development.

Their level of satisfaction especially depended on how they were treated by their direct manager, even more so than how they were treated by the organization’s top leaders.

Often, Rogers notes, companies will devote resources to developing executives, but the research suggests that they might be better served if they focus on developing managers.

Engaging the Talent of Tomorrow

ThinkstockPhotos-494940180Diane Gherson, CHRO at IBM Corp., laughs when she recalls the role technology played in improving the employee experience when she first joined the Armonk, N.Y.-based technology giant 14 years ago.

At that time, she says, managers received emails notifying them when team members’ birthdays were coming up, for example.

“And that was really exciting,” Gherson told the audience at this morning’s opening session at the HR Technology Conference at Chicago’s McCormick Place.

Now, she says, managers receive frequent messages with much more information on their employees. For instance, managers get notes telling them that a given employee hasn’t received recognition for his or her role in, say, a special project.

Gherson’s example was just one illustration of how technology has changed the way managers and employees do their jobs at IBM. As part of this morning’s “Engaging and Retaining the Talent of Tomorrow” panel discussion, moderated by Emmy and Peabody Award-winning journalist and Starfish Media Group CEO Soledad O’Brien, Gherson was one of four HR executives sharing the stage, and sharing insights into how the employee experience continues to change, and how HR is using technology to meet changing employee expectations.

Along with Dermot O’Brien, CHRO at ADP, Scott Pitasky, executive vice president and chief partner resources officer at Starbucks, and Francine Katsoudas, chief people officer at Cisco Systems, the assembled HR leaders also examined recent research findings that illuminate just how much those expectations are changing.

ADP’s recent Evolution of Work study found, for example, that 58 percent of workers saying they believe that traditional hierarchical structures in the workplace will soon be a thing of the past. The survey also found 95 percent of employees saying they believe they will soon be able to work from anywhere.

The number of workers who anticipate working where and when they choose presents opportunities as well as challenges, says Katsoudas.

At Cisco, “we believe in a concept that everything good happens in teams,” Katsoudas told the audience.

That said, teams can still thrive while working in disparate locations, she adds. Katsoudas and the Cisco HR team has focused on helping managers “really connect with their team members, and really connect them with the strengths of their individual team members.”

For example, managers rely on the company’s talent management platform to check in to see how their team members are progressing on a given project or task, and tweak their roles if need be. Managers can also send brief surveys to their direct reports, to get a feel for the level of engagement throughout their teams, and solicit suggestions on how to improve the employee experience.

As how, when and where employees work continues to change, “technology can actually reconnect us to the workforce,” says ADP’s O’Brien.

And, “it provides us with enough data,” adds Gherson, “to help us find ways to make the employee experience better.”