Employee Engagement

PNC Bank is creating a building that breathes. The aim of their new headquarters, which should be completed by 2015, is to not only be energy efficient but completely people-focused. They want to create a collaborative, comfortable space for their employees to flourish while also making a connection with the community of downtown Pittsburgh, PA.

PNC Tower

From a 300-person auditorium and theater for public events to a ventilation system with automatic sensors that allows you to experience fresh open air without having to leave your desk, this skyscraper is anything but ordinary. Click here to read more about this “tower of tomorrow.”


The “we” space

A company’s culture plays a large part in their competitive edge, so having the working environment reflect the company values can be beneficial. Traditionally, offices are set-up to mirror the hierarchy of the business – the leadership with corner offices and the interns close to the office supply closet. But Steelcase, a business that helps organizations create work environments based on empowering their people, celebrates the shift from “I” spaces to “we” spaces. For example if your company has a flat structure and values collaboration and open communication, they believe that your layout should reflect that.

At Steelcase’s own office, they moved all of the top-level executives off of the same floor and created a floor of “we” spaces for top-level projects. So, instead of bringing information to a meeting with an executive, the information stays in a room and the people and high level executives travel to it.

Click here to read more about how major companies like Deloitte, Microsoft and Google are embracing “we” spaces.


Customer service equals competitive advantage

We are in the age of the customer. Controlling the flow of information has shifted from the hands of your company to the mobile apps and social networks at the fingertips of your customers. According to Harley Manning, the co-author of Outside In: The Power of Putting Your Customers at the Center of Your Business, the only way for your brand to survive this technology-infused era is to be a leader in the customer experience arena.

A great customer experience directly connects to brand loyalty. It is what pushes customers to purchase your brand or recommend it to the people in their network. This positive customer experience also has a direct link to the effectiveness of your employment promise. That superior relationship should create the same loyalty among your people for them to stay with you as their employer and to praise you to their friends.

Read more to see why mastering the customer experience will help your brand flourish and attract and retain the people you want.

Research from the CIPD and Kingston Business School’s Centre for Research in Employment Skills and Society (CRESS) proposes two new levels of employee engagement – the ‘transactional’ and the ‘emotional’.

I think this distinction is superfluous, but the report is not all bad: flick to page 12 and you’ll find a grouchy engineer telling it like it is: “You’re not here because you like working, you’re here to keep a roof over your head and [for] the money, let’s face it.”

Let’s face it: many people at work would rather be somewhere else. This is why we don’t like Mondays and the National Lottery still does good business.

Employment is a transaction, a contract, an exchange. What’s more, employers would always prefer employees to give a little more and take a little less; that’s why notions of ‘discretionary effort’ creep into so many definitions of employee engagement.

There are many people who love their work and go beyond their job descriptions to achieve remarkable things. But these aren’t necessarily the people who sing the company song and tick all the right-hand boxes on the engagement survey.

Often the most highly skilled and motivated individuals are not especially loyal to their current employer. Some top performers exist in a state of smouldering frustration with the organisation that hired them.

They do what they do for their patients, or their pupils, or their clients, or their family, or the rest of the team – or so they can go windsurfing at the weekend.

According to the researchers, people who work to earn a living are only transactionally engaged. They might be the best sales executives or reconstructive surgeons in the history of the world, but they are only “happy to exhibit the behaviour of engagement” as long as they keep getting paid and promoted as promised. It turns out these thought criminals will move on to better opportunities as soon as they become available. But who wouldn’t move on to a better opportunity? How are you defining better opportunity if the impact of emotional engagement is to make a reasonably intelligent person turn it down?

Organisations, by and large, are not that lovable. Of course there are exceptions, but setting the cultural outliers as your model will make for some pretty weird rules. When the folks at Facebook decided to celebrate their sudden enrichment by working all night, what did you think?

“A little bit more of that kind of spirit and we all might be in a better place!”

Honestly? Or did you think of all the stuff you might have done with a million dollars and a night off? Aren’t the most engaged people those with the most interesting and rewarding jobs to do? And aren’t many of those people dispensing with employers altogether, preferring to work on their own?

Why should individuals put the employer at the centre of their emotional universe? Companies breezily claim ‘people are our most valuable asset’ and then get rid of those assets as soon as they can. Employers have told people that there is no such thing as a job for life and directed them to think in terms of ‘Me plc’. It does seem a bit much to get sniffy with people who are simply taking that advice at face value.

Even if we accept the distinction of emotional engagement, its effects are not always benign: employers who want to create ‘performance cultures’ often start by trying to shake out the comfortable, ‘like-it-here’ employees who are enjoying life far too much ever to move on.

There are several obvious things that a decent employer can do which will build good relationships with employees and help them to perform at their best. Many of them have to do with open communication, shared purpose and fair play. Most of them you could write on a piece of paper, right now, without further help. You can call it ‘engagement’ if you like, but this no more than good, basic management.

Back in 2006, David MacLeod and Nita Clarke found fifty different definitions of employee engagement; people have been adding to them feverishly ever since, like Jacob Marley to his chains, with no obvious impact on productivity or performance. We surely don’t need more circular descriptions of employee engagement. We do need employers to have more confidence in their own common sense and a clear determination to do the right thing by their people, even – and perhaps especially – when facing unpalatable economic realities.

This article was written by Simon Russell our Director of Consulting and was published in HR Magazine.

Managing Talent in Tough Times

Time Magazine recently labeled the past 10 years the “decade from hell” due to the chaotic business and economic conditions talent management has had to operate under.  “So then how do you effectively hire, develop, place, and retain individuals and leaders in a volatile environment where literally everything changes in months rather than years?” Read more for advice on how leaders must prepare for and handle this unstable atmosphere that is rapidly becoming the norm.

Learn from a Legendary Leader

Doug Conant, former CEO of Campbell’s Soup Company, spoke to HBR Idea Cast about being a leader in today’s frenetic environment. This self-declared introvert revived a company bordering bankruptcy residing in one of the poorest, most dangerous cities in the United States. Listen to his philosophies on leadership as an art form and how engaging your people is the first step in revitalizing the workplace.

The Recession and Employee Disengagement

One of the most recent statistics from a Modern Survey’s panel on employee engagement in the United States revealed that people’s belief in senior leadership and their confidence in the future of the organization are most strongly tied to their desire to stay. Employee’s needs and expectations have evolved with the scarred economy; they want to see their future and have faith in the people that are leading them there. Read more about the shift in employee retention responsibilities in today’s chaotic environment.