Sunday, August 25, 2013

What Makes a Good Workplace? Part-5

Item 7: "At work, my opinions seem to count."
All employees want to feel that they are making significant contributions in their workplaces. The ways organisations hear and process employees' ideas will shape, to a large degree, whether or not they feel valued for their contributions.
The need for employees to feel valued--to know that they really make a difference in their companies and organisations is critical. This is often referred to as employees' "internal stock price." It measures the sense of value that employees feel in their work and toward their organisation. The degree to which a company's employees feel their opinions count is readily apparent to its customers. We have all encountered an employee who felt detached or insignificant, and we know the impact that employee's attitude had on us as customers.

If the ideas, instincts and intelligence of a company's employees are its sustained competitive advantage, then employees' responses to Item 7 are of great importance. Nothing is more demoralising to employees than being excluded from significant decisions--decisions that affect their jobs. Great manager’s consult with employees regularly to make sure those close to the action have input into critical decisions. This does not mean that employees have the final say on decisions that affect their jobs. It does mean that when employee’s desires and managers' decisions differ, the best managers explain the rationale behind their decisions. These managers use the decision-making process to help employees both to see the full scope of a decision, and to understand why the decision was made the way it was. A straightforward explanation can be a real credibility and communications builder.

Great managers never ask employees for their opinions, and then decide to do the opposite, without clearly explaining why. Great ideas are the building blocks for increased efficiency and new product development. Great places to work, in which employees' opinions count, encourage ideas to flow, and to be heard, processed, and refined. Not all ideas will be successfully implemented, but the process of refining ideas is still wonderfully productive: It builds employees' confidence in the company and reinforces to employees that their efforts can make the company better.

Item 8: "The mission/purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important."

Excellence happens only when people have a deeply felt sense of purpose in their lives. Human beings want to belong to something that has significance and meaning. They want to know they are making a difference, and are contributing to an important endeavour. The best workplaces give their employees a sense of purpose, help them feel they belong, and enable them to make a difference.

Having a clear understanding of how an employee's particular role or job contributes to the company's "reason for being" can be an incredible form of emotional compensation. Employees at every level or function like to feel that they belong. Individual achievement is important, of course, but when employees of an organisation feel they are an integral part of a larger whole, they are more likely to stay committed to that organisation. All of us like to feel as though our companies stand for us, represent us, share our values, and have the same kinds of goals. It is more exciting to "share a mission" than simply to "complete a task."

Every individual has a different and unique sense of purpose, and individuals find different meanings in similar situations. Thus, designing the proverbial "mission statement" is not necessarily the solution to helping employees find a sense of purpose in their work. There is nothing wrong with mission statements, but they are often too vague and too broad to allow each employee to connect with them. Think about it. All employees, either consciously or unconsciously, ask themselves, "What is this company's purpose? Does this company look at the world in the same way I do?" Employees all want to know whether their purpose meshes with the company's, and since each one of them looks at the world in a slightly different way, each comes up with a different answer.

Great managers continually strive to help employees understand how the company's purpose/ mission relates directly to the work that employees do. This, in turn, enables employees to find a connection between the company's values and their own. Every employee has different values. Some value competition, others value service, others value technical competence. Great managers translate the company's purpose into language that each employee can understand.

Outstanding workplaces never confuse "strategy" with "purpose." Purpose is constant. It is the heartbeat of the company, and provides the company with power and guidance. It never changes. Strategy provides the answers to the question, "How will we get to where we are going?" Strategies do change. In fact, companies devise new strategies all the time as they try to find the most efficient path toward their business goals. If your company changes strategies regularly, this does not necessarily mean that it lacks a clear purpose. Great organisations emphasise how new strategies support the broader organisational purpose. Great managers always help to keep the distinction clear in each employee's mind. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

What Makes a Good Workplace? Part-4

Item 5: "My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person."
Gallup's research indicates that employees don't leave companies, they leave managers and supervisors. The impact that a supervisor has in today's workplace can be either very valuable or very costly to the organization and the people who work there.

All of us as employees have had the unpleasant experience of having a bad supervisor or manager. Many of us have also experienced the results and benefits of a good one. When Gallup evaluates the difference between bad and good supervisors, it is amazing to see how clear the difference is in the minds of employees. Yet, when we ask employees, "Do you want to be managed?" everyone says "No." Why is this? Because we automatically think of our bad experiences. What if someone who is similar to the best supervisor one has had could manage the employee? Would he or she want to be managed in that case? Yes. So, the issue is really this: What makes a great manager?

Gallup finds that great managers and supervisors possess identifiable talents or recurring patterns of thought, feelings and behaviors. The talents of great managers include:

·         getting a true sense of satisfaction out of seeing their employees grow and succeed, even if the employee's success surpasses that of the manager
·         intrinsically knowing how to match the right person with the right roles to produce the best possible results
·         setting expectations by defining the desired outcome
·         not dissecting every role down to the exact steps needed to accomplish it
·         they help people grow within a role instead of grow out of it
·         they always try to bring out what God left in versus trying to put in what God left out.

Great supervisors genuinely care about the people they work with, and thus treat people according to their individuality rather than treating everyone the same. Supervisors are the filters from which broader organizational changes and initiatives make sense to individual employees and thus gain true acceptance and understanding.

One could speculate that people are not resistant to change; they just don't have the relationships to translate how such modifications will impact them and their jobs.
For years, Gallup has learned from surveys that the credibility of senior management is critical to employee perceptions of the organisation. This led them to consult with CEOs and leaders to encourage them to have greater visibility and clearer communications. Then, three years ago, they made a discovery: Employee perceptions of senior management credibility are largely driven by the quality of relationships employees have with their supervisors. Thus, rather than feeling the need for a town-hall meeting, the CEO should feel compelled to ensure that all employees have a caring relationship with their managers or designates.

Item 6: "There is someone at work who encourages my development."
The innate yearning to learn and grow is natural to human beings. Our jobs allow us to encounter new situations and find new ways to overcome challenges every day. Why, then, do we have a tendency to stall or stagnate?
Every employee should be consciously aware of how he or she is learning and growing.

Conventional management theory has always highlighted the need for employee development. The traditional approach largely involved helping employees to identify their weaknesses, and then creating a plan to correct them. By focusing on their weaknesses, so the reasoning went, employees would become stronger and more productive. While this approach seems to make sense, it has had a significant, unintended consequence: It has emphasized who the employee is not, rather than who the employee is. As a result, the common theme in the management-employee relationship has been a constant determination to change something.

Change can be good and an effective means to improvement, of course, when it encompasses something such as learning a new skill; in the conventional approach, however, management has often tried to change dispositional factors that are part of an employee's wiring or talent. An example of this would be an effort to help employees better manage their time. While there are many tools to aid in this effort, the way one manages his or her time is a recurring pattern of thought, feeling, and behavior-in other words, part of an employee's wiring-not something every employee can be "trained" to do better. Great managers make a clear, definite distinction between what can be trained in and what is already hard wired.

For the past 40 years, development has also meant "getting promoted." Today, it embodies the degree to which employees are growing within their current roles. Most employees want to be promoted, but not if it means doing a job that does not match their individual talents and skills. We have all witnessed the Peter Principle in action: when an employee who is accomplished at a particular job is promoted to supervisor. While this may work, the new position often requires a distinctly different set of talents-talents the promoted employee may not possess. So, in the end, the promotion significantly impacts the quality of life for both the individuals promoted and the people they supervise.

In today's workplace, the concept of "lifetime employment" is passé; the new emphasis is on "lifetime employability." Managers who want to encourage the lifetime employability of their direct reports help them equip themselves with self-understanding and a clear perspective on what roles they will excel in. To accomplish this goal, such managers pursue straightforward discussions with employees. In these discussions, they seek to understand employees' strengths,
talents, and skills, why they accepted a position with their employer in the first place, what keeps them there, what kind of relationships they need to be most productive, desired mode of recognition, and the yearnings and directions the employees wish to follow.

The best managers feel there is nothing very complicated about development. Development involves holding up a mirror to employees and encouraging them to know themselves. As employees come to understand who they are, these managers strive to provide responsibilities that will be a good "fit" for employees' talents. Then, as employees move forward in their self-knowledge, great managers persist in looking for opportunities to make the best use of employees' talents.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

What Makes a Good Workplace? Part-3

Item 3: "At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day."

Full human potential is realised only when people are in a position to use their talents and strengths. Great performance is found when an individual's natural talents fit his or her role. Matching the right person with the right job is probably the most significant challenge organisations and managers face today.

Putting people in the roles that best fit who they are is one of the 12 key discoveries. The research found that the best measure of the degree to which employees feel that their talents are being used in their jobs is their level of agreement with the Item 3 statement above. Having an opportunity to "do what I do best every day" is tied to the integration of a person's talents (recurring patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours), skills (what he or she knows how to do), and knowledge (what he or she knows). Talents are those patterns that one cannot turn on and off at will. Great managers realise that, while talents are the differentiating factor in excellent performance, they are also neither created nor altered. In contrast, one's skill sets and knowledge can be impacted and altered.

The best managers see the specific talents needed for every role. Conventional wisdom dictates that some roles are so easy, they don't require talent. Great managers rebuff this belief. The best front desk clerks in a hotel, for example, have a talent for "winning others over." They establish a trust relationship with people within the first 7 seconds of an interaction. Great telephone service and sales personnel are talented in having a "third ear" or the ability to connect visually and emotionally with people they talk to on the phone. Outstanding accountants see patterns in numbers and "hear" a message or story.

Excellence should be revered in every role. Often, we manage from the perspective that because we would not want a particular job or have the talent to perform it well, we must manage it as a job no one would want to do, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is, however, a false perspective. T he task of the best managers is to clearly define the talents needed for each role, and then choose the right person for that role. A manager's job is not to make people grow talents they do not have, but to identify and utilise existing talents to their fullest potential.

Item 4: "In the last 7 days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work."
Praise and recognition are essential building blocks of a great workplace. We all possess the need to be recognized as individuals and to feel a sense of accomplishment. There is nothing complicated about recognition, but it is one of the items that consistently receives the lowest ratings from employees.
Taking the time to recognize and praise good performance is one of the 12 key discoveries.

Historically, praise and recognition in the workplace has been handled from the perspective of "If you don't hear anything, assume you're doing a good job." In contrast to this "old industrial workplace" mindset, the new knowledge-based worker relies and depends upon praise and recognition as the means of defining what is valued by the organization. Today, praise and recognition are communication vehicles for what is deemed as important.

Obviously, recognition can be either positive or negative. Gallup has found, however, that positive and negative recognition are not opposites. Instead, the opposite of any kind of recognition is being ignored. The worst possible thing we can do to someone at work today is to ignore him or her! Workplaces that continue to abide by the old culture ("If you don't hear anything, . . . ") will destroy the very human spirit that makes the true difference in quality output and service delivery.

Although recognition can be either positive or negative, effective recognition has the following characteristics: it is positive in nature, immediate and real-time to performance, specific about what is being praised, and close to the action. Many organizations have formal recognition programs that seem to have limited effectiveness. This is probably because these programs do not always give employees a clear idea of what, exactly, is being recognized, i.e., profit, growth, and so on. There can also be times when credit is given where credit is not due, such as rewarding the weatherman for a bright and sunny day.

Positive recognition is often thought of as coming strictly from supervisors or managers, but Gallup has found that employees cherish praise and recognition from peers. Coworkers know intimately the particulars of a job and when they notice excellence, it is a special event. So, praise and recognition do not just come "from the top down" anymore!


Saturday, August 03, 2013

What Makes a Good Workplace? Part-2

Item 1: "I know what is expected of me at work."
Expectations are the milestones against which we test our progress. Within the workplace, knowing what is expected can be viewed as the pathway that guides us toward achievement. If expectations are not clear, we are hesitant, indecisive, and unsure of ourselves. The importance of properly setting expectations for employees is one of the 12 key discoveries from a multiyear research effort by The Gallup Organization. The objective of the research was to identify the consistent dimensions of quality workplaces (those in which four critical outcomes-employee retention, customer satisfaction, productivity, and profitability-are all at high levels). The research identified 12 dimensions that consistently correlate with these 4 outcomes-dimensions Gallup now uses to measure the health of a workplace. An associated research effort, in which Gallup studied more than 80,000 managers, focused on discovering what great managers do to create quality workplaces.

Setting clear expectations is not a new concept for managers. In our attempts to set and define clear expectations, however, we often over-operationalize jobs. We put all of the focus on describing the steps to follow, and in doing so create an environment that communicates, "Check your mind at the door, follow these steps, and you will meet expectations." This roboticizing of humans builds little self-worth and self-confidence, and dramatically impairs quality output. When defining steps becomes the focus, setting expectations then becomes a question of how to control employees, rather than of how to guide very different people with very different styles toward productive outcomes.

So, how does a manager, who is held accountable for a team's performance, set expectations? The best managers tell us they define the right outcomes first, and then let each person find his or her own route toward those outcomes. This approach resolves the manager's dilemma. It allows for growth of the individual to occur via the individual's discovery of his or her own "path of least resistance." It appreciates and values differences between employee styles and flow, and allows individuals to use their strengths to their fullest potential.

This approach also encourages employees to take responsibility. Great managers want each employee to feel a certain amount of tension to achieve. Defining the right outcomes creates that tension and the thrill and pressure of being out there by oneself, having a very definite target. It is recognized and understood that every job has a certain number of steps associated with it. Some jobs have more of them than others do. The question is, do the steps support a clear perspective on the particular outcomes that are desired? Many times, the steps actually obscure the outcome, and the result is mere activity that has no broader purpose.

Item 2: "I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right."
We have all been in the position of having an expectation put on us and not having had the tools necessary to achieve it. This is a very frustrating position to be in. The importance of employees feeling that they have the materials and equipment they need to do their jobs right is one of the 12 key discoveries from the multiyear research effort.

The challenge we face in providing the necessary tools in the workplace is how to appropriately match individuals with a wide range of skills and knowledge with the right tools to maximise their potential. If this matching is not thoroughly examined, there can be great cost for the individual, the organisation, or both. Many organisations, for example, have come into the computer era boldly and rapidly. Salespeople have been supplied with laptop computers with the idea that computers will help them better manage time, keep accounts organised, communicate with the home office, and so on. But many salespeople don't use them. Companies tend to view this lack of usage as a training issue. So they send the salespeople off to computer school to build a comfort level with computers, and their salespeople end up using them to play solitaire. In other words, sometimes we give people materials and equipment they actually don't need to do their job right.

There is also another issue measured by this item. In today's non-hierarchical, flat organization, employees are looking around for clues that define where they stand in the social order of things. Materials and "stuff" have become those clues. So, a manager may receive an employee request to put a conference table in the employee's office, only to discover that the main reason given is "because Julie has a conference table in her office, and I am as important as she is." here is, therefore, a relational component to this item as well.

The best managers shift the decision to the employee. They provide criteria for employees to use in making decisions such as, how is this new tool or piece of equipment going to help:

· you as an employee
· our company
· our customers
This broadens the perspective of the employee, expands clarification on desired outcomes, and builds better communication between individuals and managers. It also takes the manager out of the traditional "parent" role and allows for true ownership and accountability.

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