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employee communication

4 Ways to Boost Workplace Productivity (And Workplace Happiness) Through Better Communication

Between group texts and always-on social media networks, your employees already consider screens and keyboards as vital means to ongoing conversations outside of the workplace. And your company likely uses social channels to build brand awareness, target users with focused messages, handle customer service conversations and more. Now, increasing evidence shows that better communication and using social tools within the workplace can foster increased connection and productivity.

A recent study found a significant correlation between the self-reported use of social technologies across the enterprise and self-reported employee engagement in 7 of 9 factors of employee engagement – a significant contributor to employee productivity.

Hard to believe? Not when you consider how much time you – or your team – spend on just two critical but time-consuming activities.

  • 36% (17 hours) – Portion of workweek spent responding to email
  • 20%  (9.3 hours) – Portion of workweek spent tracking down information, or seeking the person needed to provide information related to a given project

Think about that … almost one-half of at-work time is spent sending, responding to, looking for, then following up on email.

Now, thinking on your own workday, consider how much time is spent sending or responding to some variety of email asking, “Did you get that thing I sent you?” And no matter how many people are copied on that ever-lengthening email string, the only thing being created is confusion. Un-needed, unproductive meetings get scheduled, time gets wasted … it’s exhausting.

Unsurprisingly, people and connection are more effective fixes than simply rolling out a newer, better tool. Below are four ways to boost productivity (and workplace happiness) through better communication.

1. Strengthen Connections Between People

A recent Harvard Business Review study looked at a large financial services company’s implementation of an enterprise-class social platform. During implementation, roughly half the company had access to the tool. The other half continued to use traditional tools. At the end of the six-month intro, HBR called the results “remarkable.”

Simply by observing conversations taking place on the social channels, users reported themselves:

  • 31 percent more likely to find coworkers whose skills would help them meet job goals.
  • 88 percent more likely to know how to find an expert on a given topic.

In the same time period, the half of the company without access showed no improvement in these key measurements.

Enterprise social fosters quicker, more spontaneous collaboration across departments and can boost productivity. While increasing numbers of tech and service companies use platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and the like for work-critical tasks and conversations, now is the time for every employer to lean in and fully embrace what enterprise social can do to increase employee connection and engagement.

You can take internal channels one step further. Taking a cue from Reddit’s AMA (Ask Me Anything) threads, internal social channels can be a great places for specialists to share what they know. For example, HR could host “Ask Me Anything About Vacation Policy” that includes relevant links to your company’s intranet, updates, holiday schedules and the like.

And don’t overlook the importance of non-work-related communication/collaboration spaces. Establish a channel that allows your workgroup (or the whole company) to interact outside of the day-to-day tasks. Additionally, the channels and chat areas that are dedicated to projects or ongoing strategic discussions can stay more focused.

Of course, enterprise social carries liabilities with it similar to email and other platforms that connect with the outside world. Your HR and IT groups should work together to build training, usage and retention policies that cover your company’s obligations to protect internal documentation and IP while retaining as much of social’s ease of use as possible.

2. Kill Your AM Status Meeting

What comes out of your typical weekly (or daily) status meetings? If you’re like most companies, blame, bitterness and resignation are the typical deliverables. But status meetings don’t have to be like that. Simply by changing the way your traditional AM meeting works can lead to huge gains in productivity.

Change your standing status meetings to actual STANDING status meetings. Get out of the chairs, out from behind the laptops and up on your feet – then do a quick roundtable of what is actually happening today for each person in the group.

This is a meeting that should focus on what the group is working on today, rather than why the group is working on it.

Everyone in the meeting should answer two questions:

  • What are you working on today?
  • Are you missing anything in order to do the work?

By focusing on actual work in progress for the day, the entire workgroup gets a picture of the most immediate priorities. And by bringing up needs or work blockages in an open setting, the entire group gets a better sense of how all the elements of a project fit together. Save all the complicated coordination pieces for your project management software and 1:1 conversations with teammates. Don’t have a project management software? Get recommendations here and start managing your projects more smoothly.

A note of caution: “Are you missing anything?” isn’t meant for calling out co-workers who haven’t delivered or complaining about what another group is or isn’t doing. By focusing on what is actually needed to do your work (“I need the most recent TPS report from accounting in order to create the slide deck”), managers can help run down deliverables and get the work back on track.

3. Consider the Whiteboard

If Kanban has taught the world of work anything, it’s that visualizing your group’s work is a powerful tool for knowing what’s working and what’s not on a day-to-day basis. But you don’t need to be fully bought into Kanban to reap key benefits.

Use the humble whiteboard to track actual work in progress and the items your group is working on today. It doesn’t replace Gantt charts, project management systems or the more detailed to-do lists that everyone uses to keep track of workflow. Instead, the WIP Whiteboard (or WIP board) creates a powerful focal point for that new AM stand-up meeting you just initiated. Also, publicly erasing the previous day’s work as it’s completed is strangely gratifying, considering how simple an act it is.

4. Food Makes Everything Better

It’s a simple idea: the path to a more connected, more productive workplace is through your coworkers’ stomachs.

Consider getting the group together over pizza, boxed lunches, food truck fare or even BYO. Then invite the head of sales, the new business people or your boss’s boss to come and discuss successes, give a quarter-in-review update or just talk about how your group’s work feeds into the company’s progress as a whole.

No workgroup is an island. But sometimes, seeing the results of your work is difficult. Lunch-and-learns are the perfect setting to share insights from outside the four walls of your department.

The tone should be informal—no Powerpoint decks, no handouts. And your invited guest should be prepped to ensure the focus is on what works, rather than running down shortcomings and losses. This lunch-and-learn is focused on giving everyone a clearer picture of how what they do every day helps keep the company running smoothly and successfully.

The More Things Change…

The evolution of the workplace is constant. Deeply staffed departments occupying multiple floors in a central HQ complex are being replaced by smaller, more nimble workgroups. Rapidly shifting business models and a hot job market means that today’s perfectly oiled machine of a team is tomorrow’s alumni group. Your coworkers are more likely to be a combination of full-timers, contractors, freelancers and some guy named Derrick who works remote from Vancouver.

The key to increasing team productivity in the new world of work, however, is pretty straightforward. Communicate early. Communicate often.

We’re social animals.It’s important to have the immediacy of face-to-face conversation. In this age of always-connected distraction screens, sometimes the most powerful thing we have to communicate with each other is actual attention and interaction.

Did you know 78% of companies with a communication strategy were able to improve their employee experience? And let’s not forget the role recognition plays when it comes to enhancing the employee experience. Access Achievers latest report on “Building a Business Case for Social Recognition” to learn more.

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Do you have any thoughts on this article? Share your comments below.

About the Author
Web Webster HeadshotWeb Webster is a writer for TechnologyAdvice.com, covering technology, marketing, education, and healthcare for companies across the US. Implementing stand-up status meetings with a whiteboard changed his life.

 

 

 

 

leadership

Lack of Impulse Control: Is It Preventing Leaders from Engaging with Their Teams?

It all started with a client of mine whose leader had expressed frustration with her team members for being too relaxed and unprofessional. My client was the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of a large healthcare company with over 600 team members. She worked closely with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) who was a successful leader and had been with the organization for over 15 years.

One morning, the CEO became really frustrated with a few employees who were eating breakfast at their desks, which seemed to exacerbate the unprofessional work environment she was observing. She felt this was a time-waster and team members were losing productivity.

She lacked patience and decided to send an email to the entire company letting employees know they could no longer eat breakfast at their desks. Instead, team members had to eat before work or in the cafeteria. She did not inform her COO or the Human Resources (HR) department she would be sending this email.

Effects on Productivity and Company Culture

What effect did the CEO’s actions have on employee productivity that week? Her intention was to increase productivity, but her impulsive actions resulted in a decrease in efficiency. Many employees were confused by her email, and HR was receiving calls for clarification, with employees wondering if protein bars or nuts were considered breakfast items.  Other employees were pregnant or had health issues, would they be penalized if they had food at their desks? They felt they were being discriminated against.

Self-Awareness and Understanding

Was this leader self-aware enough to recognize her patterns of behavior that led her to act impulsively?  Was she able to have difficult conversations? Did she recognize how her behaviors impacted others? The answer to all these questions was “no.” This leader was not self-aware and was not able to understand the negative impact of her actions.

A Better Response

What could this leader have done better? She could have had a conversation with those few employees she felt were not being productive instead of sending a group email.

Lack of Control and Impulsive Behavior

Impulses such as the CEO described above can be perceived as a lack of control, maturity, or business savvy. This type of behavior often derails the offender as it can lead to termination or reduced opportunities for advancement.

How many of us have observed another team member engaging in an activity that we believe to be unproductive? Have you read an email, and immediately became defensive about the content or tone the sender was using? Then you impulsively decide to respond immediately and give your feedback via email, or even worse hit ‘reply all,’ and later regret what you said or wrote in that email. Unfortunately, you can’t take it back. It felt good in the short-term moment but left you with regret in the long-term.

With the use of email, Twitter, and texting, immediate gratification and ease of use prevents you from delaying or fully thinking about a response to another person’s communication. Research shows smart phones and other devices make us less assertive and cause us to “play small” and not stop to reflect how this impacts bigger life plans and goals.

What Is the Definition of Impulse Control?

Impulse control is one of the core competencies of emotional intelligence (EI) and is defined as the degree to which a person can control the need for immediate gratification. It may be the most significant indicator of a person’s future success in the workplace or adaptation in society in terms of building and maintaining relationships with others.

The impact of a lack of impulse control in the workplace is generally significant whether it is a one-time occurrence or a pattern of behavior. When you act on an impulse that leads to a negative outcome, it can lead to serious consequences that are life changing and result in forming a negative reputation. On the other hand, when you have a positive outcome, it gets a different type of attention. It can look like you are brilliant, and your reputation is elevated as a leader and a managed risk taker.

What Does Research Reveal About Impulse Control and Life Success?

For years parents have been testing their young children on impulse control based on the findings in The Stanford marshmallow experiment on delayed gratification in the late 1960s and early 1970s, led by psychologist Walter Mischel. More recently, Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld have re-examined impulse control and America’s “culture of entitlement and instant gratification” in their book, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America. Both research studies reveal impulse control is a key driver of better life outcomes as measured by better academic performance, higher SAT scores, upward mobility, and professional success.

Lack of Impulse Control and “Monkey Mind”

What prevents you from being present when you are engaging with another co-worker and not getting distracted? Is it emails, false deadlines, text messages, phone calls, web surfing, or interruptions? How can you not give into the power of temptation and stay more in the present moment?

When we lack impulse control, it takes us to a place we were not planning on going. We feel hijacked in the moment – our cognitive brain is no longer in control and our emotional brain is running the show.

On average, we have 60,000 thoughts a day (according to research by Dr. Fred Luskin of Stanford University) and only about 8-9 % are present-moment thinking. This is referred to as a “monkey-mind,” which can lead to impulsive behavior or emotional reactions when our emotional brain hijacks our thinking brain especially when we feel stress or triggered. This is called an amygdala hijack.

When the emotional part of your brain, your amygdala, is hijacked, your oxygen and blood flow move away from your thinking brain to your larger muscles, so you can react or get out of a dangerous situation. That is why you can’t tap into the best of your cognitive brain to see all variables and make a better rational decision.

The word “hijacked” is a strong word, but it feels sudden, unexpected, out of control, forceful, against your will, taking you someplace you were not planning on going. You feel more certain and things are more black and white. You are right, and the other person is wrong. You lose perspective to think clearly.

What Does Impulse Control Look Like in the Workplace?

As adults and business leaders, how can we improve our impulse control to engage better with team members and become more focused, productive and creative? Research findings reveal leaders who can manage strong emotions when feeling stress or pressure, while maintaining a healthy sense of humor, are more successful in building stronger relationships, being creative and meeting professional goals.

Developing Self-Awareness and Building Your Own Impulse Control Tools

The more self-aware you become about your own emotional triggers and how you manage your impulse control, the greater the chance to avoid inappropriate outbursts and poor decisions.  Many times, you learn to control your impulsive behavior after an unfortunate event where you lost control and had to pay a big price. Hindsight is always 20/20.  When you have a moment to look back at what you said or did, you have a better understanding of how you were triggered and how your actions impacted the situation in a negative way. You may take appropriate steps to limit the damage.

You cannot change another person or situation, but you can manage how you choose to react or respond to a situation. You can take charge of your impulse control. As a result, you can choose to “play big” and achieve more happiness, engagement and success in your personal and professional life.

Here are some specific tools you can utilize to improve impulse control:

  • Stop and breathe before you react to a situation or send an email.
  • Remember that instant gratification is short-lived and is about “playing small.” You want to “play big” and maintain a healthy sense of humor.
  • Evaluate options – no response is sometimes the most powerful response.
  • Listen to hear instead of listening to respond to someone. Become aware of distractions that are preventing you from listening.
  • Don’t feel the need to respond to every email or text immediately.
  • Leave 10-minutes earlier to an appointment to give yourself a buffer and practice mindfulness if you arrive early.
  • Avoid overpromising and under delivering and practice “present moment” thinking.

I encourage you to continue your journey toward self-awareness and practicing better impulse control.  Take charge of your success in life and the workplace and build a positive leadership reputation.  Remember this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Life is a journey not a destination.”

If you would like to learn more about EI, visit our website – www.swiei.com

Are you looking for more leadership tips? Discover how to effectively listen to your workforce with Achievers’ white paper on Taking the Pulse of Employee Engagement.

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Do you have any thoughts on this article? Share your comments below.

About the Author
Bobi Seredich Headshot
Bobi Seredich is a recognized speaker, author, trainer and successful entrepreneur specializing in leadership development. She has spent over 23 years of her career dedicated to creating, directing, writing and presenting leadership programs for top companies in the U.S. and around the world.

Bobi is the co-founder of the Southwest Institute for Emotional Intelligence and Managing Partner of EQ Inspirations. In 2001, she founded Equanimity, Inc. also known as EQ Speakers – a speakers’ bureau and leadership training company. It fast became a top speaker bureau that booked hundreds of speakers with large Fortune 500 clients. EQ Speakers was sold in 2012 and continues to be a leader in the industry.

Her book, Courage Does Not Always Roar – Ordinary Women with Extraordinary Courage, was published by Simple Truths in the spring of 2010. The book is a collection of her experiences and stories of women who have had the courage to overcome very difficult life events.

Her passion is to guide individuals and organizations to a higher performance level through her own business knowledge, inspirational stories and leadership emotional intelligence training. Bobi lives in Phoenix, AZ with her husband and 6-year old twins, Alex and Gia.

 

ACE 2017 Achievers Customer Experience

ACE 2017: Day One Highlights

Achievers annual mix of festivity and networking is in full swing with the 50 Most Engaged Workplace Awards Gala and day one of Achievers Customer Experience 2017 (ACE 2017) already in the books.

The 7th annual Achievers 50 Most Engaged Workplaces took place on Monday, September 11th at the historic Saenger Theater in New Orleans. Amidst the finely dressed titans of the HR space, exquisite cuisine, and glamorous ambiance was the highlight of the show, celebrating the companies that go above and beyond in the employee engagement space as determined by a panel of employee engagement experts. After this incredible evening of industry elegance, Achievers announced the crème de la crème, the eight most engaged workplaces. This year, the Elite Eight consists of:

  • Alliance Data for Leadership
  • Electronic Arts for Communication
  • ARI for Culture
  • ATB Financial for Rewards & Recognition
  • ArcelorMittal Dofasco for Professional & Personal Growth
  • Cadillac Fairview Corporation Limited for Accountability & Performance
  • Reynolds American, Inc. for Vision & Values
  • Total Quality Logistics for Corporate Social Responsibility

After an unforgettable night of celebration, ACE 2017 kicked-off on a positive vibe. Prominent members of the Achievers Leadership team shared the success story of CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System. After partnering with Achievers in 2012, CHRISTUS St. Michael saw:

  • a 4,500% increase in recognition given compared to the organization’s prior “home-grown” manual paper solution.
  • a 10% increase in associate engagement specific to leadership recognition from 66% to 77%.
  • a decreased turnover rate to an impressively low 6.4%, significantly below the industry standard annual turnover rate of 19.6%.

In addition to the A-players of Achievers, the opening session featured Blackhawk Network CEO Talbott Roche, who said of the event, ““This is all about celebrating the success you have with Achievers. One of my favorite topics is about innovation. Achievers’ platform is used to drive not just business results, but also innovation through engagement. It’s about how to use a platform to deeply engage. Engaged employees matter to company success. Companies with engaged workers have 6% higher financial results.”

After the keynote speeches ended, it was onto the fantastic slate of HR thought leaders discussing hot-button HR tech topics like employee engagement, rewards and recognition, and how to gain executive buy-in for engagement initiatives. Among the many memorable sessions was a presentation from Rocky Ozaki of NOW Innovations, who shared culture and operational best practices you should adopt to compete in the NoW. Beginning with a brief glimpse into the history of work, Rocky explained how the connected generation, technology and the sharing economy have solidified that the future is NoW.

With the war for talent raging, attracting top talent is harder than ever before. There is a remedy that can alleviate the need for competing for the most talented candidates on the market: retaining the top talent you do have. Cara Silletto, President and Chief Retention Officer of Crescendo Strategies offered insight into how companies can be better aligned with the wants and needs of a constantly evolving workforce, ensuring that the talent you’ve worked so hard to obtain stays with your company for the long haul.

ACE 2017 also featured numerous testimonials from Achievers customers illustrating how an investment in employee engagement can lead to tangible business results such as decreased employee turnover, increased productivity, and an improved bottom line. Becky Etsby, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Organizational Development at Coborn’s, an employee-owned grocery store with more than 120 locations, stated as much during her presentation, “When employees are engaged, they really do care about the company and can affect a company’s profitability”.

After such an amazing day, it is hard to believe there is more to come. With speakers like Carey Lohrenz, the first female F-14 fighter pilot, day two of ACE 2017 is sure to be equally amazing. Check out all the amazing photos from Day 1 of ACE 2017 here.

Follow the conversation on social media with #AACE17 and follow us on Twitter @ Achievers.

50 ME Marquee

Achievers 50 Most Engaged Workplaces Awards Gala, always a marquee event

Brie Harvey

Brie Harvey, the face of ACE

50 ME Awards

50 Most Engaged Workplaces Awards Gala

A-player smiles

A-players with A-plus smiles

ACE Social Event

Achievers’ Greg Brown and Chase Dolomont getting their grub on

ACE 2017 Stilt/Juggler

Post ACE march to B.B. King’s

ACE 2017 Tarot Card Reading

“I see in your future a trip to ACE 2018”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

disengagement and incentivizing

How to Incentivize the Modern Workforce

Management strategies have been evolving, over the last two five years, to favor more bottom-up measures to drive greater workforce productivity. While many Best-in-Class companies are retaining and using labor investment resources in payroll and compensation management, many of their peripheral Human Capital Management (HCM) investments are moving away from pure labor cost quantification to favor goal-based platforms in rewards and recognition. Are you currently offering incentives, such as rewards and recognition, to your employees?

With the inherent uniqueness of the individual in the corporate workforce, it is a virtual impossibility to find a one size fits all approach to incentivizing employees. An unincentivized employee is likely a disengaged one, meaning aspects of your business such as innovation, productivity, and retention could suffer. Furthermore, a workforce should be recognized and rewarded for embodying clearly defined corporate values or meeting specific company goals in a highly visible way, otherwise, employees may lose sight of the relevance of their work to the overall company mission, leading to disengagement and eventually attrition.

Moving from Disengaged to Incentivized

In their recently published report, Tomorrow’s Management Today: Incentivizing Workforce Innovation, The Aberdeen Group further stresses the importance of instituting and maintaining a well-defined, highly visible recognition and rewards program. Specifically, the report finds that employees at Best-In-Class companies were 31% more likely to stay with their employer if they felt that their work was relevant, and visibly impacted the organization. One of the easiest ways to ensure that recogntion reinforces successes aligned with company values in a highly visable way is by investing in an HCM system that offers a robust, goal-based recogntion and rewards component.

In-line with Alignment

Employees shouldn’t have to guess as to what the values and goals of their given organization are, nor should it be difficult to recognize and reward them for adhering to these values in pursuit of the stated goals. These shared goals and values should be apparent to everyone in the company, regardless of job title. Difficulty in effectively communicating key corporate objectives on an enterprise-wide level, isn’t a new phenomenon; companies have long been challenged with providing granular clarity to lower-level employees. Merely, announcing these goals at a quarterly kick-off meeting or sending them out in yearly newsletter does little to align individual employees’ around these goals.

Aberdeen Quote

Bottom-Up Drivers of Greater Productivity

Where it was once difficult to measure concepts such as productivity, innovation, etc., the continuous evolution or HCM systems, specifically those emphasizing recognition and rewards, can offer a tangible measurement as to the employees demonstrating those qualities a company values most. In this report you will learn how best-in-class companies are beginning to focus their peripheral HCM spend on goal-based platforms in rewards and recognition and how they are favoring bottom-up measures to drive greater workforce productivity.

Now that you have a general understanding as to the major cultural shift emphasizing employee engagement, download Aberdeen’s report on Incentivizing Workplace Innovation for more information, including recommendations regarding the selection of an HCM ecosystem.

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About the Author

Iain Ferreira

Iain Ferreira is the Content Marketing Manager at Achievers. He lives in San Francisco. You can view his Linkedin profile here.

 

 

 

How to Identify and Retain Top Performers with Rewards and Recognition

Employee retention is a key goal for every company, but it’s important to drill down into this metric and make sure you’re doing a good job of identifying and keeping your top performers. These employees deliver 400 percent more productivity than the average worker, according to statistics published in Harvard Business Review (HBR). The researchers state, “Our workforce strategy goal should be to double down on retention tactics for high performers,” and further explain that, in many cases, managers aren’t meeting the needs of their top talent. The first step to nurturing your best workers is to make sure you know who they are; and a simple way to discover top performers is through rewards and recognition programs.

Look for active recognizers

The right rewards and recognition program can help determine top performers – but you may be surprised by which statistics you should look at. As to be expected, the hardest working and most talented people are likely to receive the highest amount of recognition from their supervisors. They are also likely to be recognized by their peers, since the ability to work well within a team is another important component of productivity. However, when you’re seeking out the truly top performers in your workforce, it’s also important to identify those who are most often recognizing others.

According to a recent Achievers study, employees who were promoted turned out to have a track record of actively recognizing their peers. In fact, before being promoted, these high performers sent an average of 3.8 times more peer recognition than the average employee. In this way, employee rewards and recognition programs provide two separate metrics for  identifying top talent: those who receive the most recognition, as well as those who give the most acknowledgments to others.

Tie recognitions to company values

Your organization probably took significant time and effort to craft a mission and values statement.  This statement is more than mere words residing on a wall, a website, or welcome pamphlet; it can serve as a dynamic tool for shaping your employee recognition program. By tying recognitions to your company’s core values, you can see which performers are embodying those values most authentically. This approach is sometimes termed “Management by Objectives,” and it feeds employee motivation by helping every member of the organization feel that their contribution is truly meaningful.

High performers have unique needs

The workplace factors that keep your super-skilled employees motivated are somewhat different from commonplace worker needs, and it’s necessary to be aware of these differences. While competitive salaries are important, HBR research points out that using regular compensation as a method of delivering employee rewards can potentially backfire and cause resentment among coworkers. On the other hand, high performers care significantly more than average about having their efforts noticed, recognized and rewarded. These rewards can be in the form of social or financial recognition, but in either case, your top talent is especially eager to receive praise, financial incentives and frequent feedback. This is another reason that if you’re in the habit of only providing annual or semi-annual evaluation sessions, the employee engagement levels of your top performers is likely to suffer.

Why you need to focus on high achievers

While highly skilled employees are slightly more satisfied with their jobs than the average worker, one in five say they’re likely to leave their current position within the next six months. Furthermore, if and when your top employees do decide to move on, their skills will lead them to easily find new opportunities. Given the high levels of productivity and the contributions these extra-competent workers make to the workplace environment, losing even one of them can be a blow to your company.

Help your top performers fulfill their potential

Employee retention is only one of many reasons that HR professionals and managers should invest in the effort to nurture high achievers. Equally important is  assisting in their career growth and providing them with development opportunities to help them reach their full potential. A major component of nurturing employee success is to  ensure tasks remain challenging and varied. High achievers “live for the challenge,” and seek to overcome obstacles and solve problems as a source of personal accomplishment. So make sure to provide them opportunities to stretch themselves through varied and challenging assignments.

Employee recognition best practices dictate that recognitions will be most meaningful to these talented workers if they reflect on an achievement that was truly praise-worthy. High achievers are tireless, curious, full of passion, and internal drive. If they’re recognized they want it to be for something substantial and worthwhile. In other words, don’t praise them for minutiae such as arriving on-time or keeping a clean work area. Instead, provide detailed and specific feedback that focuses on the positive impact they are making through their diligence and pursuit of excellence.

The right HR technology can be your ally

Identifying top performers can help your organization discover who your most engaged employees are (and vice versa), allowing you to effectively leverage their skills and enthusiasm as a positive force in the workplace. HR tech is steadily evolving, and data gleaned from a cutting edge rewards and recognition platform can now provide you with valuable insights to help you identify and retain your top performing employees.

To learn more about how employee recognition can help you identify and retain your top talent, as well as having a positive impact on your entire workforce, download our eBook: The Ultimate Guide to Employee Recognition.

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Vacation Time

How to convince employees to take vacation time

Businesses don’t just run on machinery; they run on the hard work and innovation of employees. Unfortunately, many North American employees are stifling their productivity and creativity by working without significant breaks for many months, or years, at a time.

In 2014, more than 40 percent of Americans didn’t take any vacation at all. Taking vacation time, whether employees actually travel or not, is essential for allowing time to rest and recuperate. “Use it or lose it” policies encourage some employees to take vacation time off, but there are a number of other ways that you can improve vacation usage at your organization:

Encourage people to take time off

Some companies encourage people to take vacations by offering several weeks of paid days off per year. Other companies have policies stating that employees are required to use a minimum number of vacation days, paid or not. Companies can monitor whether employees are taking days off through their HRIS and remind them when too much time has gone by without a break. HR should work with the employee’s manager to resolve issues that make it hard for the employee to get away.

Take a vacation yourself

Employees know there are unstated policies that matter just as much as stated policies. If senior managers never take a vacation, or if they’re always calling to check in when they’re away, employees will think that they’re expected to always be available, no matter what HR says the policy is. Take a real vacation yourself to let your employees know that it’s really okay.

Don’t overload employees with work when they return

Who can relax on vacation when you know work is piling up at the office and you’ll be slammed when you return? Have a process in place to handle work so it doesn’t accumulate and overload an employee returning from vacation. Some companies even take care of work-related emails in employees’ inboxes when they’re away. It’s the electronic equivalent of coming back to a clean desk.

Think twice before offering unlimited vacation

Offering unlimited vacation time seems like it should reassure employees that it’s okay to take time off, but it can sometimes have the opposite effect. Without some official norm, employees don’t know how many vacation days it’s really okay to take — they realize unlimited vacation doesn’t mean taking off 364 out of 365 days, but they don’t know just how many days are acceptable. They may take less than they’d like because of the confusion.

Your employees are your best asset. Help them take advantage of their vacation time allowance for their benefit as well as the company’s.

 

How to run a meeting that engages employees

5 ways to make meetings more engaging

All too often, business meetings are unproductive, unfocused, and just plain boring. While meetings may have a bad reputation, that doesn’t mean your team can’t work together to create a positive experience for everyone involved. When employees feel engaged in a meeting, it can generate an environment where ideas flow, team collaboration improves, and social bonds are strengthened. Here are five tips for how to run a meeting that increases employee engagement:

  1. Stand up and get the blood flowing

While many people have anecdotal evidence that standing meetings improve attention and engagement, there’s now research to support this claim. The Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis found that people in their study had increased levels of engagement when they stood up during a meeting compared to a control group. If you feel that the level of participation isn’t as high as you would like, or if you’re losing your audience, have team members get out of their chairs.

  1. Be sure to get people involved

If you want people engaged, you have to be sure to include them. Think about implementing different strategies to get people sharing ideas, collaborating, and speaking with one another. To do this, try routinely hosting a round at different points in a meeting where participants can contribute, share opinions, and even voice complaints. Think about breaking people up into groups or partners, or even using “speed dating,” where everyone switches partners quickly to bounce ideas off one another. Also be sure to ask for feedback on meetings and query participants about how meetings can be improved in the future.

  1. Have clear goals and objectives

Meetings that go off on tangents or don’t have a clear goal can often leave attendees frustrated and disinterested. There should be a set framework in advance of your meetings, with key points outlined and a good idea of what the meeting needs to accomplish. This can help make brainstorming sessions more focused, help you stay on point, and keep your team going in the right creative direction.

  1. Get visual

Visuals are an excellent way to increase engagement in a meeting. But just adding some pie charts to a presentation isn’t going to cut it. Think about using a white board or pin boards, mixing up colorful markers, and distributing post-its throughout your meeting room. Encourage people to write their own ideas down, express themselves visually, and even vote on ideas by placing a sticker with their name next to the proposals they like best.

  1. Try to make a meeting special

People tend to like a bit of variety in life, and meetings are no different. Think about inviting leaders and educators to speak to meeting participants. Sometimes it doesn’t even have to be entirely related to the meeting topic or objective. As long as the speaker is innovative and challenges orthodoxy, there is an opportunity that he or she will educate and inspire meeting participants. You can also think about introducing a novel environment to help jump start creativity. It could be as simple as bringing people out to a park or hosting a meeting on a patio, but a change of scenery can go a long way to getting the engagement you want.

Work-life balance tips

You look like you need a vacation: Helping your employees disconnect

Are you one of the 64 percent of managers who expect their employees to be continually available by email and phone? This figure comes from a recent survey by Workplace Trends, and the ramifications of blurring the boundaries between personal time and work time are concerning. Too often, both employers and employees assume that true dedication means they’re never off the clock – in reality, this inability to leave work behind yields only inefficiency and emotional burnout. Forward-thinking employers support (and even pay) their staff to disconnect completely when they’re not at work.

Weekends and vacations act as mental “reset buttons,” helping workers remain effective by allowing them to refresh themselves and engage fully in other interests. Decades of research show that humans perform better when they have the chance for rest and recuperation. Football coaches encourage players to get plenty of rest before a game, and colleges warn students not to study all night long before a big exam.

An increasing number of businesses now recognize that their workers are more engaged on the job when they have the chance to disconnect. In fact, the CEO of Evernote now pays employees $1,000 to take a vacation in which they stay entirely disconnected from work. FullContact went one step further, offering its employees $7,500 to take non-working vacations.

The trend toward working from home and using personal mobile devices on business trips creates confusion about what constitutes personal time. In addition, the economic pressures of the recent recession have instilled fear in employees that if they take truly disconnected vacations, they might be passed over for promotions.

To encourage your employees to get the mental refreshment they need, here’s a quick list of work-life balance tips:

  • Set an example: When you’re not working, let your staff know that you aren’t available by phone or email.
  • Make disconnecting during non-work hours a company-wide policy, and publicize it widely.
  • Provide assistance with delegating, especially if your employees have a tough time believing it is safe to leave work in a colleague’s hands.
  • Reassure workers that you don’t value them on the basis of over-connectedness. Instead, praise them for demonstrating good mental hygiene (as shown by being able to step away from phone and email).
  • Incentivize taking all the allotted vacation time.

Even if it takes a bit of effort to break the habit, your organization will benefit from the change in culture. When your employees have the chance to take a true break from work on evenings, weekends, and vacations, they’ll come back with increased productivity and improved morale.

Employee Engagement in the Retail Industry

3 Ways Disengaged Employees Impact the Retail Industry

When it comes to driving repeat purchases in retail, customer experience is just as important as price, if not more so. With your employees at the forefront, bringing positive or not-so-positive experiences to your customers, it’s important for retail leaders to work with a highly engaged team. Get the fast facts and learn how disengaged employees affect consumers and what you can do to improve engagement levels.

FACT 1: Disengaged employees fire customers.
The retail industry saw 28% of global consumers switch due to poor customer service in 2013, compared to 22% in 2012.

Ouch! As if the economy and changing consumer tastes weren’t enough, retailers and brands are now losing loyal customers due to poor service. And that’s not all. Of all industries, retail has had the highest percentage of consumers who switch due to poor customer experiences. How can you engage your employees and empower them to deliver exceptional service?

  1. Be transparent: Help employees understand how consumer interactions affect the bottom line.
  2. Timely recognition: Give your employees kudos on-the-spot when they provide excellent service.
  3. Utilize feedback: Allow your customers to give feedback and share it with your employees.

FACT 2: Disengaged employees call in “sick.”

A decrease of only 10% in employee absence could produce a 1-2% savings in payroll costs.

Absenteeism isn’t just a nightmare for logistical reasons, it’s also a symptom of unengaged employees. Employees who aren’t motivated to come to work are probably not delivering exceptional service when they’re in attendance. Here are several ways to beat absenteeism:

  1. Improve the culture: Create a positive environment where employees feel excited to come to work.
  2. Create alignment: Get employees in sync with the organization’s objectives so they understand how they contribute to the business.
  3. Use peer-to-peer recognition: It’s great to get feedback from the top down, but peer to peer recognition is a powerful tool as well.

FACT 3: Disengaged employees will leave your company.  

More than 50% of disengaged retail employees are planning to switch jobs in the next year, versus 10% of engaged employees.

High retention rates are indicative of engaged employees. Engaged employees are putting your customers first and ultimately driving the bottom line. Consider practices that your business could adopt to help boost retention rates and keep business booming.

  1. Engage employees: Practice recognition when employees meet a business objective.
  2. Develop a recognition rhythm: Get all of your employees in the habit of recognizing each other on a regular basis.
  3. Evolve your engagement strategy: Ditch antiquated ways of rewarding employees and use positive and timely feedback.

Learn more about how your business can improve the customer experience by engaging employees. Download our whitepaper, The Cost of Disengagement for the Retail Industry.

 

Happy at Work

Get Happy—5 Links to Help Keep Everyone Smiling at Work

Imagine it’s a Monday morning and you’ve just arrived to the office. How’s your mood? Are you excited to be at work? Does the prospect of a new week get you excited? Are you smiling?

Happiness in the workplace may sound like a pie-in-the-sky concept, but the good news is, it’s not. Although happiness has often been attributed to an individual, there are things managers and companies can do to help foster a happy office environment. Here are five of our favorite links from around the web to help get your office smiling.

 

1. Why Happiness at Work Matters – (Inc.)

2. Make Fun a Workplace Priority for Happier Staff and Clients – (Lifehacker)

3. The Benefits of Bringing More Play into Your Work – (tinybuddha)

4. 5 Simple Office Policies That Make Danish Workers Way More Happy Than Americans – (FastCo.Exist)

5. Reframing Your Way to Happiness – (Forbes)

Maintaining a happy and fulfilling home life is a goal most of us have. So, with most of our waking lives spent at work, striving for the same at work makes perfect sense. Keep these tips and insights in mind as you and your company works to keep your employees happy and engaged.

 

Photo courtesy of: adt610 via Compfight cc

10 ways to wake up at work: Energize your workforce and stop hitting “snooze” on productivity

From our headquarters in San Francisco, we hear about and see plenty of strange happenings. One recent protest by the possibly fictional San Francisco Sleep Movement highlighted the prevalence of insomnia and “incessant yawning” in our fair city.

Pajama days are best left to school environments and spontaneous urban gatherings, but this got us thinking nonetheless. It’s hard to get anything done if you are sleeping at your desk, so we compiled a few tips to get you and your staff alert, energized, and performing at your peak.

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Ask Amelia: What metrics do you use to measure productivity?

What are some metrics that you use to measure productivity? If they are related to manufacturing/production even better.

Productivity measures can sometimes be a bit tricky as there is no one size fits all. That said, measuring process improvements will lead to measuring your productivity.

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Inspire engagement: Tips to plan effective meetings

I recently heard a friend say, “I’d rather stab my eye with a pencil than attend this meeting.”

While extreme, her opinion of meetings is not uncommon among employees. This is a missed opportunity for employers. If employees spend their time dreading meetings and misunderstanding important objectives, then they are less likely to drive results that contribute to the organization’s success. Meetings are used for communication and planning, but they must be conducted effectively with specific outcomes in mind.

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Is summertime good or bad for productivity?

Summer vacation is on my mind a lot, but it’s not what you think. Instead of dreaming about escaping to a tropical island (which I admit, I still do from time to time), I’m actually interested in research on how summertime impacts business productivity. I wrote a previous post about “Why Leaving Work Early is Good for Business”, and “Taking Back Vacation Days,” so I had to investigate the latest Inc.com article titled “Summer: To Chill Out or Work Harder?” I wanted to know: is summer good or bad for employee productivity? Does vacation or a flexible seasonal schedule boost productivity? What is the latest research or expert opinion on the topic?

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Happy and productive: Harness communication to improve engagement

Dear A Advisor,

I’m an HR manager and I’ve recently noticed a breakdown in communication in my company. It’s affecting productivity between and within teams and making it more difficult for employees to truly engage with their work. In fact, the numbers on our engagement surveys are falling and people seem much less happy. I’d like to keep my teams positive and productive, without the strain of poor communication.

Do you have any tips for improving lines of communication between and amongst teams in my company?

Thanks!

Let’s Start Talking

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No “case of the Mondays” for engaged employees!

Have you ever had a “Case of the Mondays?” It’s the unpleasant mood and dread you might feel at work on Monday after coming back from the weekend. Typically, this mood affects your positivity and productivity at work. Did you know that engaged employees are less likely to experience this problem? Engaged employees anticipate Mondays with excitement and are ready to start creating value from your organization the minute the work week begins.

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Study proves 63% of U.S. workers not fully engaged

If you analyzed the employees at your office, how many are actually engaged in their job and committed to your organization? On a larger scale, how many U.S. workers are engaged and willing to exert discretionary effort for their companies? The numbers might surprise you.

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Take back your vacation days!

Have you seen the awkward yet equally comical commercial about “taking back vacation days?” Even though the commercial advertises Las Vegas, the overall message is worth repeating: employees should take their vacation days, and employers need to encourage it too!

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How employee engagement affects the bottom line

“Did you know that employee engagement is no longer a competitive advantage but a basic organizational requirement to achieve business results? 71% of American workers are ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ in their work. This leaves 29% of American workers who are engaged or involved in and enthusiastic about their work. Implement a strong rewards and recognition program to boost productivity which will ultimately lead to increased profits and business results.” BX Business Week http://bx.businessweek.com/employee-engagement

Why leaving work early is good for business

Memorial Day weekend is behind us and summer is almost here. The days are warmer and longer, and for some employees, it means summer hours at the office. Companies offer summer hours as a perk to employees, which grants them reduced work hours on Fridays to enjoy longer weekends. How common are these programs in business?

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5 tips to improve productivity, morale, and happiness

Do your employees enjoy coming to the office? Are you looking for tips on how to improve productivity, morale, and happiness? At Achievers, we believe that a working environment should reflect a company’s culture and values, influence productivity, and evoke success. Organizations are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to keep their employees engaged; however, the answer is right in front of you.

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Engaged employees from day one: Start with success

Dear A Advisor,

Recently, we’ve been fortunate enough to bring on a few new hires. We’ve already improved our employee engagement throughout our company. Now that we’ve brought on new people, how do we ensure our new hires are engaged and productive from day one?

– Growing Up Fast

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Your employees are your first customers

Your employees are your first customers

It is common for companies to believe customer loyalty is the key to profitability, but, in reality, employee loyalty is even more profitable and important to companies. Organizations should adopt the mindset of engaging their employees first, because engaged employees drive customer happiness.  Loyal and engaged employees are more aligned to customer’s needs and generate 37% higher sales and 31% higher productivity on average (according to a recent article in Harvard Business Review). This organically translates into customer loyalty and, in effect, drives profitability.

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Satisfied employees meet the bar; Engaged employees set the bar

A,

We’re working with our managers to get them to recognize their teams more, but management don’t seem to see the value.  They feel like everything is fine as is.  How can I explain to others exactly what the term “engagement” means?

Yours truly,
Miss Engagement

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