Sunday, October 21, 2012

5 Principles for Increasing Staff Engagement: How Associations Can Avoid Sick Day Abuse

Photo courtesy of People Insight-
The USA Today story (Say what? For a workday off, some employees say anything) – based on CareerBuilder surveys of 3,976 employees and 2,494 hiring managers and HR professionals – grabbed my attention. The study made me wonder whether association employees are engaged or are making excuses for taking time off from work?
“They may think of sick days as a fleeting benefit,” CareerBuilder's Rosemary Haefner says, "They think, 'I've got to use it or lose it.' Sick-day abuse not only alienates managers and co-workers who are left to handle the workload.”

How engaged is your association’s staff?

Check out the research findings highlighted on this Engaging the “Pole Vaulters” on Your Staff  piece by Katie Truss, Emma Soane, Kerstin Alfes, Chris Rees, and Mark Gatenby via Harvard Business Review (March 2010).
Five principles for increasing employee engagement: 
1. Keep people informed
2. Listen 
3. Set clear objectives 
4. Match the person with the job 
5. Create meaningful work 
The CareerBuilder findings suggest that such efforts lead to more-engaged employees, who in turn perform better, are more loyal, take less sick leave, are less likely to quit, and enjoy better health and personal well-being.

Grand Prix Drivers
Nearly always strongly engaged with their work, they’re ideal employees much of the time—but they’re also at risk of burning out.

Pole Vaulters
They’re strongly engaged, but their episodes of engagement are less frequent than those of Grand Prix Drivers. Pole Vaulters tend to be energized only by certain aspects of their work.
Long-Distance Runners
They’re reliable and consistent, but they’re less engaged than Grand Prix Drivers and Pole Vaulters (when the Pole Vaulters are engaged).

They’re rarely engaged and never strongly so. In fact, they can easily become actively disengaged—that is, negative and hostile—and have a demotivating effect on colleagues.
Where does your association staff fit within these four employee profiles? What do you do to enhance staff engagement?

Holly Green offered suggestions in a 3/16/2011 Forbes article titled Why Engaging Your Employees Is The Answer To Strategic Planning.

To engage your employees:

1. Clearly define what winning looks like.

  • It seems like I mention this principle in almost every blog I write. Probably because nothing is more important than creating a picture of what winning looks like for your organization, your team and yourself. Everything flows from this critical starting point. Without a clear destination, who knows where you’ll end up?
2. Measure what matters AND what people can relate to.
  • Many strategic plans focus solely on financial metrics. However, many employees don’t connect on a day to day basis with metrics like operating margins, net profit and EBITDA. They don’t see how making a decision about how to handle a customer leads to achieving a desired profit margin. And on those rare occasions when employees actually get to see the company financials, the gap between when their performance occurred and the numbers is far too great to have any real meaning.
  • What kinds of metrics help people feel engaged? Things like improving customer satisfaction and/or retention, speeding up response or delivery times, reducing scrap, developing a new product or service — just about anything that ties directly to the tasks and activities people perform on a daily basis. When employees can see what winning looks like in ways they can relate to, they make better decisions in support of the plan.
3. Set your employees up for success.
  • This sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many organizations neglect this key point. Especially during tough times when resources get stretched and the demands on everyone’s time continue to increase. To set your people up for success, make sure they have:
  1. Clarity on what they are expected to produce/accomplish
  2. The appropriate equipment and resources (tools, money, people, etc.)
  3. The information needed to master their position
  4. The skills, knowledge, and aptitudes to get the job done
  5. A good fit between their personality/style and how you expect them to get the job done
  6. The internal motivation, desire, and drive to complete the task
  7. Training/coaching to leverage strengths, minimize or eliminate deficiencies, and enhance professional development
4. Give plenty of feedback and recognition.
  • Few things do more to engage employees than providing feedback on their performance and acknowledging their efforts. To ensure this activity doesn’t get lost in the shuffle, schedule monthly one-to-ones with your direct reports regularly. These meetings should cover the employee’s progress toward the goals, any performance issues they may be experiencing, identification of additional information, support or resources they need to get the job done, and any issues they need to bring up with you. And don’t forget plenty of “thank you’s” for a job well done.
5. Build an atmosphere of trust.
  • To build trust, start by defining the organizational values that determine how you will behave with each other. Then live those values on a daily basis. Your behavior as a leader or manager speaks much louder than your words. Communicate constantly with employees, not just about the decisions being made, but why they are being made.

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