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In working with organizational leaders and individuals, the topic of employee engagement regularly surfaces. Several questions generally arise including:
- What is employee engagement?
- What does high performance/engagement look like?
- What are the roles of the individual, manager, and company in employee engagement?
What is employee engagement?
The answer to this question may shock you depending on what role you play in your company. In many ways, it is easier to talk about what employee engagement isn’t. Plug your ears, CEOs and human resources professionals! Generally, the success of the overall organization doesn’t make the top of the list when discussing engagement. In fact, it appears that as a company grows in size, the “organization” or executive leadership and HR team can actually do more to hinder than help engagement.
Here is a working definition of employee engagement:
The ownership and passion that employees have for their roles and responsibilities and
the ability to understand how they fit into the big picture.
It turns out that if employees feel like they are responsible for the work they do, enjoy doing that work, and clearly understand how they are adding value to the entire process, they can be highly engaged. Relationships can directly impact engagement too. For many people, if they are a part of a cohesive work group and/or have a strong relationship with their direct leader, they are even more engaged.
What does high performance/engagement look like?
The characteristics and traits of high performers and highly engaged individuals are quite similar regardless of the type of business, industry, or position. When you ask employees to describe a high performer/highly engaged team member, the behaviors demonstrated look and sound a lot like the following:
- Goes above and beyond
- Ability to change as needed
- Serves as a knowledge resource
- Asks questions
- Cares about the product/service
- Is passionate and prideful about the work
What are the roles of the individual, manager, and company in employee engagement?
It turns out that the individual, manager, and the company all play a certain roles when it comes to engagement:
- The Individual: Needs to be open to new ideas, ask for help when needed, look for new and challenging assignments, be a good team player
- The Manager: Needs to provide recognition, support, and guidance as needed, provide challenges and opportunities, serve as a role model
- The Company: Needs to provide the basics such as pay, vacation, benefits, etc. Most importantly, the company needs to avoid creating processes that cause disengagement.
Have you thought about what engagement looks like in your organization? Consider utilizing the organizational development experts at Skywalk Group to craft an employee climate assessment for your business.
Women make up approximately half of the American work force, yet only a mere fraction (around 3%) may be found around boardroom tables at FORTUNE 500 companies.
Why are women underrepresented in critical roles at organizations large and small? In response, some may point to the dual roles many working women hold as primary caretakers of their family’s personal lives. Others may point to the slow evolution of educational and training opportunities, particularly in areas like math and science.
The answers to the question “Why are women underrepresented in critical roles?” are complex and may vary with personal opinion. Skywalk Group recognizes the need and responsibility businesses have to prepare those in specialist and managerial roles to serve as effective leaders within their organization and community at large. Talented and skillful employees may not necessarily be equipped to lead and inspire others; these critical interpersonal skills evolve through training and development.
In decades past, large companies had mentoring programs to help groom and coach those persons aspiring to hold top positions. In more recent years as the economy has shifted, many of those programs have been disbanded in the interests of financial belt-tightening. While the result may be short-term savings, it also creates longer-term disadvantages appearing as training gaps that aren’t easily (nor quickly) recouped.
Skywalk Group has designed a program to help career-minded women gain the essential skills of leadership necessary to build the esteem and commitment of team members while maximizing the effectiveness of personal and group contributions.
On Thursday, April 21, Skywalk Group held the first of four group sessions in its Leadership and Development for Women workshop. Conducted by Mindy Seiffert, attendees included small business owners, a senior member of a non-profit organization, a manager of a mid-sized virtual work force within a large corporation, and other businesswomen interested in learning skills to help overcome workplace communication and performance challenges.
Other group sessions will follow on May 12, June 2, and June 23 from 8:30am to 12:30pm at Skywalk Group’s Training & Development Center in downtown Cedar Rapids. The program also includes four e-learning sessions personalized to the unique needs of each attendee.
Persons interested in learning more about the program are encouraged to contact Skywalk Group at 319-743-9830 or Click here to view email address. New attendees are welcome and will receive a personalized e-learning session in lieu of the initial group session.
If you use Twitter, search for the hash tag used during our sessions (#SKYLDW) for bite-sized bits of the content we cover. You may also visit http://chattagged.com and enter the hash tag to view the stream of tweets.
Last Thursday, I had the chance to see the Del McCoury Band as they passed through Iowa City. Watching the amazing musicians caused me to think about, and draw comparisons to management teams I’ve been a part of and have coached and taught through the years. I asked myself this simple question. What could a management team learn from spending an hour watching a really good bluegrass band.
Here’s my list:
The importance of harmony – Harmony in the bluegrass sense is achieved when three or four voices produce the different notes that make up a single chord. A chord is one of the most pleasing sounds in music. There are times when a management team has something very important to say. When it’s that important, it needs to be communicated with one voice (chord). You each may say it slightly differently, but the message needs to be consistent. Are you striking a chord with your people?
The importance of individuality – Bluegrass, like jazz, has moments of incredible individuality. It’s what makes the music jump to life. When one member of the group steps forward to perform a solo, the rest of the group steps back or aside and lets the soloist have the spotlight and the microphone. Management teams are no different. Each member of the team brings strengths to the group and when needed, it’s important for the rest of the group to let that person take the lead and speak for the group. Do the members of your team know what their strengths are? Do they step into the spotlight when needed?
The importance of communication - There are many times when the soloist is performing that the rest of the band is in the background, talking to each other. Deciding where they are going to take the song next, determining who will solo, or just making a slight adjustment to tempo. Management teams often fall into the trap of only communicating during their staff meetings. Once a week is rarely enough communication to keep a team, work group, or business running smoothly. The team should be talking to each other all the time. Adjusting on the fly to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks. How effective is your team at Ad Hoc communication?
The importance of cadence – There are no drums in bluegrass music. What there is, however, is one person playing the bass and keeping the time for the entire group. That driving rhythm keeps the song and the group moving in the right direction until the song is finished. Management teams need someone to provide continuity and rhythm. Sometimes it’s the person who prepares the agenda and takes the notes to keep people informed. Other times it’s the person who constantly reminds the rest of the group that information needs to be communicated to keep the department in the loop. Does your management team have someone who is providing cadence?
The importance of having fun – You’ll never see a bluegrass band in performance mode that is not smiling, laughing, and carrying on. It looks like fun! Just because your team has responsibility for the organization, it’s ok to show people you are humans and can have fun while leading. Is your team having fun?
There you have it. Five points to compare your leadership team to. We’re interested in your feedback. Let us know how your team measures up.
Mindy Seiffert, Training & Development expert for Skywalk Group, lead this month’s HR Roundtable. Her presentation, “Making the Transition: Navigating the Shift from Individual Contributor to Manager” focused on importance and challenges of developing effective leaders and managers in an organization.
Mindy discussed the career transition from a highly productive, well-performing employee to an organizational leader. This transition is very difficult, as the employee must learn how to contribute through others rather than through his/her own individual contributions. Navigating through this transition is critical, however, as research shows managers who only make a partial transition contribute less to the organization than a new hire does.
Employees who make the transition become effective leaders, contributing significantly more to the organization through others than they did as an individual. According to research, effective leaders return a lower than average turnover, higher customer satisfaction, and higher net income for their company than their low-to-mid level counterparts.
If these results can be expected, it is beneficial for an organization to help its managers become effective leaders. An employer can help this transition by:
• Placing career development into the hands of the individual.
• Helping individuals understand the descriptive nature of the four stages and how it translates into expectations.
• Training and educating new and prospective managers.
• Holding managers and supervisors accountable for contributing in a stage 3 way.
• Identifying key leadership competencies and promote accordingly. Remember – contribution before promotion!
If you or other managers in your organization need to develop or enhance their leadership skills, sign up now for the next Leadership and Development Public Workshop.
As a mother of eight year old twin boys, I am constantly amazed at how my children view and respond to the world around them. Frequently, I am not only inspired by their logical and fresh approaches, but I try to incorporate them into my own life.
In my previous position as a brand manager for a natural products company, I was responsible for launching a line of children’s bath & body products. After weeks of intense graphic design work and collaboration between marketing and the creative team, I decided it was time to get feedback from the people who mattered most: the children who would someday be using the product. Luckily, the company had an on-site childcare facility. I approached several children (ages 2-8) and asked for their feedback on everything from the animals on the package, to the scent and performance of the package and product. Not surprisingly, as this was a product line intended for children, their feedback was extremely valuable to the team working on that project.
However, as discussed in this TED video, Build a Tower, Build a Team, it would appear that we all have much to learn from the youngsters in our lives. There are a few key points I would like to mention from this team building activity:
- Monetary incentives don’t always increase performance.
- Having a college degree doesn’t mean that someone is automatically guaranteed success.
- The best project managers are those that develop and utilize excellent facilitation skills. Learn more about why projects fail.
- Success can be found in places where you would least expect it.
- Eliminating barriers and power struggles can go a long way towards successful communication and team work.
Enjoy the video! I know I did. Perhaps I should be consulting even more frequently with my children on everyday business problems.