Category Archives: employee engagement

Stop employing Managers

Times have changed. The way we work has moved on. I think the role of Manager has had its day.

Unfortunately not many organisations have moved with the times. They’re offering new products and using new technology but  still servicing customers using the same old rules and tired, bureaucratic ways of working.  I don’t believe they can keep up with customer demands by working that way.leader_postit

New technologies have influenced what we do and the way we do it – organisations are offering a huge variety of products and service in ways we wouldn’t have thought of  just 10 years ago. Our customers see the convenience and efficiency of new technology as just the norm and are demanding even more. No longer satisfied with ‘average’ service;  they want more than just their query answered; they want choice, they want personal service.

In order to satisfy your customers I believe you have to focus on your employees. In my opinion they are in the best position to give your customers what they really want.

Stop controlling employees with overly complex and detailed rules. Instead give them the autonomy and responsibility to make decisions resolve problems and complaints themselves. Give them the tools, information and freedom to make decisions.

Stop telling employees what to do.  They are the ones doing the job so make use of the knowledge and relationships they have built up. They know how stuff actually works. They can tell you what works well and what’s getting in the way. You just have to ask. Your customers already (probably) tell them what they really think. Enable your people to use their knowledge and skill and you should see them, and your business grow.

Stop employing Managers to control things. Organisations need Leaders who focus on people. But you don’t just need leaders at the ‘top’ of a company. Everyone should be a leader.  Because Leaders motivate and inspire their people and encourage them to engage. And when employees are engaged they will motivate, inspire and engage your customers.

How many Leaders do you employ?

To hear more on how to create the right working environment and conditions to retain employees with valuable IT/Technology skills, employee engagement, customer engagement or ‘The 3Ease Standard’ and bespoke surveys email michelle@peopleessentials.co.uk; follow us on @peopleessential or sign up to receive our blog/occasional newsletter.

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Can you hear me now?

In the last fortnight I’ve heard more than 10 talks including some great ones from Steve Cram, Brad Burton and 3Ease Partner Sian Perham.

Now since joining Hungerford Speakers Club I’ve taken a much more, critical, interest in ‘talks’ – I’ve learn’t just as much from evaluating them as I have from delivering them.

I can’t really understand why I look forward to going to the meetings. Who’d have thought I’d actually want to stand up and talk for 2 minutes on a topic that I have had no time to prepare for!

I joined Hungerford Speakers because I want to improve my public speaking skills; I want to be more confident at speaking in front of large groups. And I’ll be honest I feel some pressure, when my subject  is ‘engagement’, to be engaging!

Communication Hierarchy

Of course I know that the more engaging my talks are the more likely people will listen and act on what I communicate.

My ice-breaker speech (the name given to your first speech at Speakers Club) was about mindset. I suggested that there was no such thing as luck and that luck is actually a state of mind. Funny really I could have substituted the word luck with confidence ( at speaking) and reached the same conclusion.

The most engaging talks are those that persuade and inspire. Now, you may not like his style, but when I saw Brad Burton he did exactly that. Unconventionally dressed in jeans and t-shirt, speaking at pace and using the odd swear word, his confident delivery quickly built credibility. He tells you right up front his intention is to make you ‘get off your arse’ and makes powerful use of personal stories to connect with you, his audience, and get his point across.

In my experience too few of us aim to persuade and inspire. We set our sites much lower; most of our communication focuses on giving information. It’s safe. It’s quick. It’s boring. It’s ineffective. When you fail to keep peoples interest or attention they stop listening.

Statistics about engagement suggest that for the average UK organisation:

  • 30% of employees are engaged ie. motivated, committed and performing their best
  • 40% are not engaged ie. doing just enough not to get noticed and either looking or waiting for something better to come along
  • 30% are actively disengaged ie. unhappy, demotivated poor performers spreading disatisfaction

If you apply those statistics to communication in the workplace (communication being one of the main drivers of engagement)  it means;

  • 30% of messages are understood and inspire people to act on them
  • 40% are unclear and lead to confusion, inconsistent or incomplete action
  • 30% of messages are completely misunderstood and result in no action being taken or people doing the wrong things

How much of what you communicate is unwelcome, irritating background noise?

Good communication is free. Bad communication is very expensive – for every organisation.

If you want to improve your customer experience improve the way you communicate with your employees.

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small is beautiful

When I worked in big corporates we looked down on small and medium size organisations.

big-giant-stepping-on-a-small-company1At that time I’d never even worked in one.

Working in a big company just bred a certain arrogance; we ‘knew’ we could do everything better. We used our muscle to buy more cheaply from suppliers and we could sell more cheaply too – if we wanted to. Our products and services were more easily and readily available. We could afford the latest technology. We attracted the best and most talented people because we offered better pay, more benefits, a  training plan and promotion prospects.

The tide is turning.

Today it’s better to be an SME.

Today being a big company is a problem.

Technology is no longer a barrier to entry, products and processes are more easily ‘copied’.  Small organisations can compete with big organisations on everything from price, quality and in recruiting staff.  And when it comes to customer experience – they’re outclassing them.

Research suggests, even in this climate, that price is not top of the customers wish list especially when it comes to selling B2B.

Customers still want value for money but expressed as a combination of personal, friendly and polite service, knowledgeable and available staff, responsive after sales support and finally price.

Customer service has never been more important to customers (and businesses). The 2012 American Express Global Customer Service Barometer found that 68% of those surveyed in the UK spent more with a company when they had good customer experience.

The best organisations recognise that really good service can’t be achieved by just following a process or supplying a product. That just makes you the same as everyone else. Your reputation for service comes from the whole customer experience and is reliant on the day to day activities of each and everyone of your employees. Successful organisations understand that to deliver consistently good service that wows their customers then they have to wow their employees first!

Big companies have traditionally seen the customer service department as an overhead, the place customers go when things go wrong.  Their emphasis has been on decreasing costs by implementing automated call centres or out-sourcing the function overseas. Their size means that they are slow to adapt to these changes.

Smaller organisations are in their element. They can and are reacting to changing customers demands. They are flexible enough to ensure that everything they do is based around doing the very best for their customers.

Based on your experience, how much do you agree or disagree that each of the following accurately describes customer service in small businesses?

  • 71% agree that small businesses know their business/product better than large companies
  • 74% They understand their customer better than large companies
  • 81% provide a more personal customer service experience than large companies

Considering a small independently-owned business and large company that both provide excellent customer service – which type of company are you willing to spend more with?

  • 48% Willing to spend more with a small business
  • 7% Willing to spend more with a large company
  • 44% No difference

(2012 American Express Global Customer Service Barometer -UK)

Small companies are winning customers because they’re good not because they’re big.

Does your organisation still think big is best?

Do you know what kind of service your customers want?

As an employer are you giving your people the kind of employee experience that encourages, enables and motivates them to provide the best customer experience?

For information on how  3Ease can help you find out what your customers and your employees want talk to michelle@3ease.com / 01635 246214 / http://www.3ease.com

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5 Reasons to ditch appraisals

Whenever I mention the word appraisal I always get some kind of reaction from whoever I’m talking to. The response may vary from a shake of the head, to a sharp intake of breath or a few ‘well chosen’ words (which cannot be repeated here) but it is invariably negative. I could count on one hand the number of people who have something good to say about them.

I’ve worked in Human Resources for over 20 years.

I hate appraisals.

If they don’t motivate or engage people what’s the point. I’d ban them from all organisations if I could.

As you can imagine working in HR my personal experiences of appraisals have all been really positive. Of course not. We’re the ‘owners’ of the appraisal process and therefore on a mission to test it and break it; that’s the bit we do very well.

I can think of one job (two excellent and I recognise now, engaging managers Clare & Julie – thanks!) where I experienced positive, constructive and career enhancing appraisals. The rest have been pretty hit and miss.

Compared to other peoples experiences I consider myself fortunate. The greatest crime I experienced was that they either didn’t take place or were completed in 5 minutes as a paper exercise. That said there is the red neck issue that I’m still quite bitter about. Of course I accept some responsibility for that (I mean not having the appraisals) but let’s be honest I didn’t really see the point of pushing for anything more. I sought my guidance and feedback from others.

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3 reasons to dump appraisals

I know what the problems are (I talk about them in ‘training’ sessions) and commonly it comes down to the fact that

  • Because they only take place once or twice a year (some) managers think its OK not to talk with their people at any other  point – that’s no feedback for over 5 or 11 months at a time!
  • The manager takes the role of  assessor and judge too seriously. The definition of appraisal is the act of assessing something or someone but you’re not supposed to take that literally.
  • Appraisals are still linked to pay rises and bonus’ and where that’s the case, if you actually manage a two-way discussion, it’s going to be quite narrowly focused and defensive.
  • Managers are not honest; they skirt over feedback to avoid potential conflict or what they see as difficult topics of conversation.
  • There’s no discussion about the employees needs, interests and aspirations; or that’s all that gets talked about.

You’ll see a theme emerging with these points and surprise it’s related to engagement!  Employee engagement isn’t rocket science and when you’re talking appraisals it’s simply about creating regular two-way dialogue, that meets the needs and interests of both parties; it’s about working relationships based on trust and honesty and aligning what you do (as an individual manager) with what you say (as an organisation in everything from your values to your policies).

If you want to engage your people ditch the appraisal. Definitely dump the name.

Don’t even have a ‘review’.  Just have an honest two-way conversation.

To find out what your people think, how to improve communication and achieve higher levels of engagement in your workplace then get in touch with michelle@3ease.com – we’d love to talk with you.

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It ain’t what you do its the way that you do it

…and that’s what gets results (courtesy of  Ella Fitzgerald or Bananarama depending on your musical tastes)

These words have been popping up all over the place recently – it started with the (excellent) video on the www.engageforsuccess.org website, then  the unfortunate playlist of a local radio station and more recently at a conference.

I couldn’t find the origins of this saying (other than song lyrics) but if you know different please let me know. I did however discover the origins of a few others in my search.

image‘Always a bridesmaid and never the bride’. That was apparently the result of an advert for mouthwash in the 1920’s!

Then I found two theories for the term ‘being on a good footing’. One is related simply to the size of your feet . The bigger your feet the greater your status. Interesting!

The other theory is that it goes back to trade apprentices; after their first day at work the apprentice had to invite their workmates for a drink. Of course they had to ‘foot’ the bill and it was said the more generous they were the ‘better footing’ they achieved with their new workmates!

These days it usually takes more than a beer to establish yourself at work. The relationship between Employer and Employee is more balanced too with the result that we are more selective about our jobs, the people we work with and the places we work.

Research shows that we don’t choose our employers for just one reason. It’s not just about the money (or the beer). People, and especially the best people, even in this climate, have a variety of criteria and need to be persuaded that as an Employer you will meet their needs and wants.

At 3Ease we believe it’s SMEs not large companies who can offer the best candidates what they want;

  1. Interesting work – with less bureaucracy and more flexibility there’s more opportunity in an SME to take responsibility for a wider range of tasks and practice a variety of experiences and skills.
  2. To get involved – in a smaller environment ideas and feedback are easier to share so its easier to join in and feel you are making a real contribution to the business.
  3. To feel that their job is important – it’s easier to make a difference when you can see where your job fits in, watch your ideas being implemented and follow projects through from start to finish. That helps build pride too.
  4. Believe that their Employer cares about them – working in an SME means everyone is more visible enabling people to build more individual and stronger working relationships.
  5. By their nature SME’s tend to be more innovative, responsive and flexible – and in our experience that results in a better work life balance too.

Not every workplace is the same but SMEs have a natural advantage when it comes to delivering the right results for their people and their customers.

If you want to find out how other Employers are attracting the best people in to their business then take part in the 3Ease SME Benefits Survey.  Covering everything from pensions, bonus’, overtime and holidays to flexible working, medical insurance and child care vouchers  – all participating organisations receive a full report for only £25.

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Should work be fun?

Fun (noun) Enjoyment, amusement, light-hearted pleasure.

There are a couple of jobs that really stand out in my career and my over riding recollection is that they were fun!

Now, be honest, how many of you automatically said to yourselves ‘you can’t have been working very hard if it was fun’? More often than not ‘work’ and ‘fun’ are seen as exclusive. And fun is certainly not something you do when you’re under pressure to resolve a problem or have a deadline to meet.image

I can assure you I worked very hard. Part of a well respected team and successful company I thought nothing of regularly working 10  – 12 hour days. My job was varied, stimulating and very challenging; I was given complete autonomy, and responsibility, for some significant projects that took me right out  of my comfort zone. I learn’t loads. I worked with a great team of people and had a very supportive and encouraging manager. I did it because I enjoyed it. I was engaged.

It’s been recognised for a long time that having fun makes you a more efficient learner. (A principle effectively employed in playgroups and nursery schools but less prevalent as you progress through school to more ‘serious’ qualification focused learning). Research shows that when you enjoy what you are doing it stimulates learning and long term memory. When you are bored you are not having fun and you are not learning!

Fun helps create passion and energy and that’s what drives and motivates most of us to get things done.  We are more productive, effective and creative when we enjoy ourselves.

Having fun is an effective way to relieve stress, it enhances communication, helps build   relationships and a common identity.

Fun and engagement are inextricably linked with learning and performance.

As we approach the New Year perhaps now is a good time to ask yourself the following two questions

  1. are your employees having fun?
  2. how much more effective would your people and your organisation be if they were?

If you would like to see more fun and better results in your workplace then get in touch with michelle@3ease.com we’d love to talk to you.

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What does employee engagement mean to you?

To a lot of people absolutely nothing. I suppose it’s not that surprising after all the term ’employee engagement’ isn’t that  inspiring or exciting.

I had expected business people to be more aware though; after all when you hear quotes like ‘85% more profit’ and ‘50% less absence’ in this economic climate you’d expect to see business owner/managers ears prick up. Maybe in the UK we’re just conditioned to hearing negative news stories (like how much a company had to pay out when they lost a tribunal) that when something positive comes along we miss it*/ignore it*/don’t believe it * (*please delete as appropriate)

Then there are those that have heard of ’employee engagement’ but, mistakenly, think it’s far too expensive for them to do anything about it.  Fair enough engagement does sound expensive if you

  1. only associate it with big companies (who have deep pockets)
  2. and weddings (…may also require deep pockets)!

Employee engagement is relevant to every organisation that wants to stay in business or grow.

It’s the extras that make a wedding expensive. The big statement dress, the huge number of guests – the ceremony itself is not.

And that goes for employee engagement too.

Of course you can have glossy brochures, and tailor made training programs if you want but its really just about good systems, good management and leadership. Things like giving people clear targets and goals and sharing information about how the business is performing don’t have to cost anything. Except perhaps a bit of time and effort. But when you calculate the returns you can expect from engaging your people (unlike a wedding) you’ll understand you can quickly recover any costs that you might incur.

Then there are the people who, despite talking about engaging customers for years, think engaging your people is a pink and fluffy ‘nice to have’.  Take a look at this latest report published on the newly launched www.engage4success.org website today (the product of a government taskforce on employee engagement) 94% of the world’s most admired companies believe that their efforts to engage their employees have created a competitive advantage

So can I ask you again – what does employee engagement mean to you?

Employee Absence does not make the heart grow fonder!

Sickness, holidays, sickness absence…this topic has been all over the news so I thought it would be useful to offer some practical advice and say don’t despair it’s not as bad as it seems.

The recent European ruling in ANGED v FASGA and others held that workers who fall ill during their holiday may take this time as sick leave and reschedule their holiday to another time.

To minimise the risk of this I suggest you consider updating your sickness procedure to include the following:

  1. Require that people provide a sickness/fit note, at their own expense, to cover each day of pre-booked holiday that they are off sick for
  2. To qualify it should be clear that their sickness has actually made them unfit for work i.e. an ear infection may stop someone swimming while on holiday but does not mean that they cannot do their job!
  3. Clarify in your policy that this does not apply to any additional leave provided at the discretion of the company/in excess of the working time regulations.
  4. Remember that unless you have a company sick pay scheme employees will only qualify for Statutory Sick Pay and this is not payable for the first 3 days of sickness absence.
  5. If you have a company sick pay scheme you may find it beneficial to make payments under the scheme discretionary rather than contractual; this may not be possible for existing staff but should be a consideration for new employees.

Another important case NHS V Larner means that employees on long term sick leave can continue to accrue annual leave and are automatically allowed to carry it forward. Most organisations don’t let their employees carry over leave from one year to the next but this case means that people returning to work after sickness can!

What is perhaps worse is the implication that employees on long term absence whose employment is terminated can claim payment for all the holiday they have accrued during the period of their absence: so someone who has been off sick for 2 years would be entitled to be paid for 8 weeks holiday. There is no guidance, yet, on how far back employees can claim.

So what can you do?

  1. Make it clear in your contracts that only statutory holiday entitlement may be carried over.
  2. Consider compelling employees to take annual leave while on sick leave, and pay them accordingly: this will at least spread the cost however it is not yet clear whether this would be allowable under the ruling.
  3. Act promptly in respect of long term sickness issues: take appropriate and reasonable action to minimise the accrual of annual leave from one year to the next.

Of course this isn’t all you should be thinking about.

Prevention is better than cure and research shows that employee engagement is one remedy you can’t afford to ignore.

Did you know Employers lost about 131 million working days as a result of sickness in 2011: that’s 4.5 days per person. 57% of people say they take time when they are not actually ill; 23% report sick due to relationship issues, 25% because they just want a day off and 6% to avoid a problem at work.

Do you know what the average number of days sickness is in your organisation?  Most SME’s don’t.

Did you know that organisations with a higher proportion of engaged employees suffer 50% less sickness absence than organisations with more disengaged employees?

To find out how to create an environment that drives performance (and attendance) then just ask3ease for more information or michelle@3ease.com

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Is it OK to be emotional at work?

Please don’t tell me you’ve never got annoyed by something or someone at work… I wouldn’t believe you. We all get like that at some point.

Depending on the strength of feeling some of us will have a grumble to a colleague to get it off our chest: someone who shares the same values as us and will understand how we feel. And, when we look back, we’ll often justify our emotions by saying things like ‘I wouldn’t feel like that if I didn’t care’. This is quite normal on an occasional basis and doesn’t affect how we perform or how we feel about our jobs and the work we do.

But imagine if we didn’t have someone to talk to. What if we got annoyed or frustrated by something, or someone at work on a more frequent basis? What affect would that have on our work? How would it affect other people?

Emotion isn’t really acceptable in the workplace is it? People who show their emotions are often seen as negative, weak and unable to handle pressure. We all have to deal with negative emotions sometimes and most of us have found ways of controlling them so they don’t ‘get the better of us’: it’s an unwritten rule that ‘professionals’ control their emotions  in meetings, phone-calls and emails.

Of course some emotions are more acceptable e.g. excitement, optimism. When ‘controlled’ and ‘professionally’ managed  these emotions are considered to be positive attributes in the workplace.

Passion is an emotion admired in business. It conjures up a picture of someone successful, a person with energy and drive.

Passion:  “strong and barely controllable emotion”

Passionate:  “having, showing, or caused by strong feelings or beliefs”

Oxford Dictionary

Employers want to employ people with passion. Passionate people are more innovative, more committed, apply greater effort and perform better. Passion at work is used to describe positive emotions.

Of course just because you’re passionate you’re not automatically better at relationships, more honest, skilled or talented. Passion is an emotion just like the others and passionate people can behave just as well, or as badly, as any other ’emotional’ people – the purpose and intent behind the emotion remains key.

As an Employer you can’t simply demand passion, or expect it: employee passion describes a positive emotion that, like employee engagement, results from how people feel about things like the work they do, relationships with their colleagues and manager and opportunities for learning.

Anyway there you have it  – it’s OK to be passionate at work. Passion is an emotional state in demand by employers (because passionate people are better performers).

So are your people emotional or passionate?

If you want to find out how to attract passionate people to work with you and if you’d like to know how to create an environment where passion (and therefore performance) will flourish then the simplest way to find out is ask: 3ease for more information or michelle@3ease.com

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When only the best will do

Deciding to recruit a new employee is a big decision and most of us would agree it’s important to get it right. Choosing the wrong person would be a waste of time, effort and money and impact on business performance.

Would you employ someone who

  • turned up late for interview?
  • argued with you during their interview?
  • couldn’t remember what job they had applied for?
  • looked like they had just crawled out of bed?
  • didn’t convince you they could do the job (or that they wanted to learn)?
  • wouldn’t get on with your other staff?
  • bad mouthed their last employer?

Why is that so many people do?

Time and time again I’ve seen managers justify these very decisions because they ‘don’t have time to wait’.

These are the kinds of behaviours we associate with disengaged employees. Disengaged employees make mistakes, miss deadlines, let down their colleagues and customers and don’t care. Believe me you have time to wait!

So if you’re thinking about recruiting do yourself, your business and your team a favour, don’t compromise.

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