A policeman’s lot is more engaged – national | Stuff.co.nz

A policeman’s lot is more engaged – national | Stuff.co.nz.

Improvements in staff engagement in the Police can partially be attributed to technology innovations. The New Zealand Police have introduced technology that enables police to report incidents remotely. That information is then processed by administrative staff enabling the police to focus on their front-line work.

This is an example of how job design can improve engagement. Based on Hackman and Oldham’s job enrichment model we can ask questions such as:

  • How can we create more skill variety?
  • How strongly do our people identify with their work?
  • What makes work meaningful for our most engaged?
  • Do our people have the autonomy they need to do a good job?
  • Do they get appropriate feedback about their performance?

Job enrichment model (Hackman & Oldham

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Book review – We: How to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement

Rudy Karsan and Kevin Kruse’s book is pragmatic and of use to anyone looking to improve employee engagement. The book is organised into four parts. The first two deal with the individual and I will get my objections to them out of the way before discussing the gems to be found in parts three and four.

In parts one and two the focus on the individual is understandable – as engagement happens from heart to heart. We know that globally, the rates of disengagement are too high and too many people are disconnected from their work. I also accept that people will feel more fulfilled if they find meaning and purpose in their work – but after reading the first few chapters I was left with an impression that we are Homo economicus – we are one dimensional and our primary function is our work. Through our work we will find fulfilment and happiness. But it feels like a rationale to get people to work harder.

As a New Zealander one bad habit my fellow Kiwis share with the people of the United States (the home of the authors) is that we work long hours – we work too hard. Work-life balance is seriously out of balance. In this context I get concerned when I encounter an evangelistic approach towards the virtue and necessity of hard work.

The positives

Having got that out of the way, this book has many gems. The authors have obviously rolled their sleeves up and got involved with engagement processes. They share the three questions they use to gauge engagement (you will find them in the book). I am a fan of short and open survey questions and intend to incorporate these into my work.

The authors make a beautiful distinction: harmonisation = engagement + alignment.

Engagement is the catalyst to get you to that extra edge in performance, while alignment ensures everyone is heading in the same direction. (page 145)

They raise the bar for us here. Some organisations struggle to get to the point of surveying staff about engagement. They may or may not do anything with the information gleaned. To ensure the material issues blocking greater engagement are addressed, and then to go on to align people across the various structural and ideological barriers in an organisation is a worthy aspiration.

Another concept that resonates with me is their management prescription, embodied in chapter eight – “great managers focus on growth, recognition and trust”. This chapter atones for the issues outlined earlier. The authors prefer valuing employees to recognising employees. To survey your employees, survey them to see to what extent they agree with the statement “I feel valued as an employee of this company.” They prefer it to “I receive recognition when I do good work”.

Valuing is about appreciating the worth of something (someone) and of esteeming something (someone) highly. When we value employees, we appreciate them for who they are and what they bring to the organization. We acknowledge them not merely for tasks, but to the deeper intrinsic worth they add to the organization by just being there. (page 177)

When authors apply concepts about qualities of character, such as trust and trustworthiness, they reveal to me a deeper understanding of the human condition than encountered in many business books. Rudy Karsan and Kevin Kruse highlight trust as an important driver of employee engagement. To understand this better they suggest questions such as: “How can our leadership team foster greater trust among employees?” The three qualities that inspire trust are competence, caring and commitment.

It is hard to find books that focus on engagement – so this one is well worth the purchase price. If you know of others you would recommend, please comment.

We: How to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement by Rudy Karsan and Kevin Kruse (2011) New Jersey: John Wiley

website: www.wethebook.com

Stakeholder engagement pays – a silver bullet?

Effective stakeholder engagement contributes both directly and indirectly to the bottom line. This post provides a sample of some proven benefits of stakeholder engagement for the major stakeholder groups. What is exciting, is that the generic communication skills at the heart of engagement are effective in diverse stakeholder settings. Surely engagement capability has to be a top priority for organisational development.

Some of the examples here have been in other posts – they are assembled here to demonstrate the multiple benefits of stakeholder engagement.

Financiers

Companies with better CSR performance “face significantly lower capital constraints”. Beiting Cheng, Ioannis Ioannou and George Serafin’s research, Corporate Social Responsibility and Access to Finance, confirms their hypothesis that:

…better access to finance can be attributed to reduced agency costs, due to enhanced stakeholder engagement through CSR and reduced informational asymmetries, due to increased transparency through non-financial reporting.

Employees

An impressive array of research and anecdotal reporting evidences the vital importance of effective employee engagement. Here are a couple of examples:

  • David McLeod, in a report to the British government in 2008 estimated the cost to the UK economy of their low levels of engagement to be between £59 and £65 billion pounds.
  • Recent Gallup research identified a high correlation between effective engagement and high earnings per share (eps). Companies with “exceptional employee engagement” achieved eps more than four times that of their industry competitors.

By engaging employers, companies are engaging their engagers.

Customers

Gallup also provide impressive figures for those companies that engage effectively with customers.

Our studies reveal that customers who are fully engaged represent an average 23% premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth than the average customer. Actively disengaged customers represent a 13% discount in those same measures.

Suppliers

This video from Walmart reveals efficiencies generated by the partnership between the company and Peterbilt, who supply trucks. The partnership is helping Walmart to achieve its target of a 100% increase in transport efficiency by 2015 from a 2005 baseline.

While I can’t support this anecdotal evidence with figures, the director of a local company attributes an effective relationship with suppliers with the survival of his company. When the company was experiencing difficulties, several suppliers extended credit to help the company through.

Community

Witold Henisz led a major Wharton School research project delivering evidence of the financial benefits of effective stakeholder engagement in gold mines in Spinning Gold: The Financial Returns to External Stakeholder Engagement. The research team studied the impact of stakeholder engagement on the financial performance of gold mines and gold mining companies. They created an index based on 50,000 stakeholder events from the activity of 26 gold mines.

By incorporating this index in a market capitalization analysis, we reduce the discount placed by financial markets on the net present value of the gold controlled by these firms from 72 to between 33 and 12 percent.

Increased productivity of the effective engagers where able to start mining earlier than poor engagers. You can read more about this here.

This is just a sample of the increasing evidence of the efficacy of stakeholder engagement. Please add any others as a comment.

Engagement and change: part 2 – lean thinking

This post by guest blogger Alex Twigg is the second part of a two-part post.

Much of the change in workplaces over the last few decades has been predicated on notions of economic efficiency and have been known variously as “downsizing”, “rightsizing”, “outsourcing” and more recently as “mergers and acquisitions” – and as the Kotter and McKinsey studies mentioned in part one shows – not much of it successful. In the February / March edition of the Harvard Business Review, an article on mergers and acquisitions quotes the following – “Companies spend more than $2 trillion on acquisitions every year, yet the M&A failure rate is between 70% and 90%.”

By contrast, an alternative model of change – one that is intrinsically engaging of employees, that is about “learning to do things with others” is a workplace transformation process known as Lean Thinking – a western lens on the Toyota Production System.

The ‘lean” or “less” of Lean Thinking is often misunderstood. It is not about cost cutting (the old traditional focus of change) and it is certainly not about retrenching – i.e. less staff. Rather Lean Thinking is based on two values: continuous improvement and respect for people. The system of “lean thinking” is the mutual reinforcing of these twin values through a structured process of principles and actions – that in its essence is fundamentally engaging of employees.

Reducing waste

Lean Thinking is not premised on the assumptions of “economies of scale” and its twin “resource optimisation” – the assumptions that shape traditional approaches to organisational change. Rather it focuses on a notion called “flow” and the removal of waste. It is primarily focussed on process efficiency rather than economic efficiency.

The traditional approaches to change and Lean Thinking depend on very different primary sources of data to inform change. In the former the data derives from an abstraction of the productive process – namely the organisation’s statements of account. The primary question in this approach is “how do we make the economic equation of this organisation work?” This is the question that has shaped all the “”downsizing” “rightsizing and “mergers and acquisitions” activity of the past. In “lean” the primary source of data for change is from the organisation’s productive processes themselves – through the identification and removal of waste to answer the primary question of “how do we make value flow?”

Lean Thinking identifies 7 forms of waste, namely motion, waiting, transportation, storage, defect waste, over producing and excessive processing. Space precludes a discussion of each of them me so for present purposes a description of the first will have to suffice as a sense of the thinking behind waste generally.

Motion waste consists of all unnecessary movement and searching. Searching is the biggest form of motion waste – searching for information, looking for the correct person, tool or document. It is estimated that between 20 – 50% of time in a physical workplace is spent looking for people, tools, specifications, patient information … and in an office environment, some 15% of our time is spent looking for information that is within an arm’s length! In addition to searching, motion waste includes all unnecessary bending, lifting, reaching and walking. 

To systematically remove waste from an organisation’s processes requires the active involvement of the employees who are uniquely positioned to see the waste. Managers cannot see deep enough into the processes to really identify the waste that the employees see and experience daily.

This creates a dilemma for organisations – managers have the authority to effect change but not the complete awareness required on which to base this change; and employees by contrast have the awareness but not the authority.

The employee engagement strategy to Lean Thinking is to structure a process that seeks to resolve this dilemma. It requires 2 guarantees to give it meaning – one procedural, namely participation by all in identifying waste – the other substantive – no redundancies as a result of lean initiatives. The former is essential to identify and remove waste. And the latter is required otherwise employees won’t participate. Clearly no-one will participate in identifying waste if their jobs are put on the line as a result – and flow cannot be improved if employees do not participate in identifying waste.

The central component of a change process premised on employee engagement is a closed loop feedback system for responding to and implementing employee generated suggestions for improvement based on identifying and reducing waste. This is nothing like the good old suggestion box though on the surface it may appear similar.

This system is built on a structured process of organisational learning that teaches the organisation the following:

  • value stream mapping skills that allows everyone to see the organisation’s current end to end process to providing its services or manufacturing its goods, as well as imagine an improved future state. This creates a framework for employees to think about and identify the effects of waste that they experience everyday at work.
  • root cause analysis skills that allows everyone to identify the causes behind the effects of waste that they experience everyday at work as frustrations, irritations, inefficiencies etc.
  • developing the systems and processes – the architecture if you will – of this transparent, closed loop system that allows people to see that the individual opportunities for improvement they have raised have been captured, and how and who is able to participate in addressing them.

Removing waste reduces lead time enabling more resources to be
dedicated to adding value

When this process is introduced in workplaces it results in literally hundreds of employee identified “Opportunities for Improvement” or OFIs.

If one is looking for a measure of employee engagement, how good is this one? Surely this is a direct expression of an employee’s commitment to an organisation? And very importantly it is a measure that arises directly from every employees work – i.e. their involvement in the organisation’s processes rather than arising indirectly – i.e. from something external to their everyday work – like completing a survey that creates a new bureaucratic structure that adds little or nothing to either the flow of goods and services through an organisation or the flow of problem solving in the organisation.

Lean thinking is an example of the sort of workplace improvement strategy that the Department of Labour is supporting through its High Performance Working Initiative.  You can find out more about this at www.dol.govt.nz/er/bestpractice/hpwi/index.asp

Guest blogger: Alex Twigg

Alex Twigg presented at the recent HRINZ National Conference in 2011. He has extensive experience in employment relations (ER) in a variety of roles including mediation, arbitration, advocacy, facilitator and process consultant. Over the last four years he shifted from operational to strategic ER – focusing on the link between people, process and organisational performance.

Alexander is currently employed by the Department of Labour’s Partnership Resource Centre.  He works with unionised workplaces helping the parties improve their workplace relationships and then help them put those relationships to work using frameworks such as ‘Lean Thinking’ to help both parties achieve their mutual and separate interests.

Employee engagement and change – part one

When thinking about employee engagement I am struck by the how similar the employee engagement scores are from around the English speaking world. The results are all similarly low – around the 25 – 30 % mark. And it seems little really changes year after year.

The costs of low engagement and ineffective change management

David McLeod, in a report to the British government in 2008 estimated the cost to the UK economy of their low levels of engagement to be between £59 and £65 billion pounds. But low levels of engagement not only have an economic cost; it also deprives employees an opportunity to find meaning, dignity and community in work. This is the social cost; as yet unmeasured but equally important and perhaps even larger than the economic cost.

But these costs say nothing about the cause or the solution to these perennially low levels of employee engagement. I believe the cause of the problem is hinted at by another well known workplace statistic. Many will be familiar with John Kotter’s research findings in 1996 that 70% of organisational change fails to achieve its objective. Fewer might be familiar with McKinsey & Co’s study in 2008. It showed little improvement over the 12 years between the 2 pieces of research notwithstanding the focus change management skills and practice has received over this period.

What’s going on here? Is there something about the way we effect organisational change that inhibits or undermines employee engagement? If we shift our focus from trying to change employee engagement scores to changing the way we effect organisational change might we improve both?

I think that if we want to see employee engagement scores increase we need to turn our attention to focussing on an approach to managing change that is intrinsically engaging of employees.  In short I think we need to change the way we think about and give effect to organisational change.

Effective change

So what’s wrong with the traditional approach and what does an alternative model of change look like? We seem to be currently addicted to an approach to change that is predicated on notions of expert knowledge and its association with management control, what Marvin Weisbord calls “learning to do things to or for others” as opposed to “learning to do things with others”.

The traditional model of change is typically one of a few people, mostly managers (at times working with consultants), who generate change proposals and consult with employees affected by the proposal. A common feature of this sort of change is the short period of time employees and their representatives are given to comment on the proposals relative to the time taken by managers and their representatives, to develop the proposals. If the adage Kathleen Dannemiller and her colleagues articulate in their thinking about workplace change is correct – namely that “we commit to the things we help to create” is true –then its little wonder that our levels of employee engagement – a measure of our employees commitment to their organisation, is so low.

This article was first published in the August/September issue of the Human Resources magazine. Part two explores practical means of improving engagement and adaptive capacity for change.

Guest blogger: Alex Twigg

Alex Twigg presented at the recent HRINZ National Conference in 2011. He has extensive experience in employment relations (ER) in a variety of roles including mediation, arbitration, advocacy, facilitator and process consultant. Over the last four years he shifted from operational to strategic ER – focusing on the link between people, process and organisational performance.

Alexander is currently employed by the Department of Labour’s Partnership Resource Centre.  He works with unionised workplaces helping the parties improve their workplace relationships and then help them put those relationships to work using frameworks such as ‘Lean Thinking’ to help both parties achieve their mutual and separate interests.

Staff engagement and the failure of HR

The Human Resource (HR) function has a fatal flaw in its very conception. It is a flaw that limits the ability of HR to foster better staff engagement. It is the inherently schizophrenic nature of the role – in that it has two typically contradictory functions, controlling the employment contract on the one hand, and developing the organisation and its staff on the other. These two functions sit on the shoulders of the executive like the good and evil angel, whispering contradictory messages. Keith Hammond of Fast Company is even harsher in his judgement:

The human-resources trade long ago proved itself, at best, a necessary evil – and at worst, a dark bureaucratic force that blindly enforces nonsensical rules, resists creativity, and impedes constructive change. HR is the corporate function with the greatest potential – the key driver, in theory, of business performance – and also the one that most consistently underdelivers.

The contract role

The dominant HR role in many organisations is the contract role – hiring staff, determining remuneration, and providing the structures for performance management, promotion and rewards. As employees typically represent the greatest expense in organisations, the HR function is focussed on controlling and reducing that expense. This focus engenders a litigious and adversarial mindset. Contracts are nailed down and policy and procedures proliferate. The HR function is the natural adversary for unions, and these two, often get locked into mutually destructive behaviours, as eloquently described by Peter Drucker:

Management and union may be likened to that serpent of the fables who on one body had two heads that fighting each other with poisoned fangs, killed themselves. (Peter Drucker).

I believe this has a broader impact on many organisations in fostering a “theory x” approach to management – perceiving staff as unmotivated and needing to be coerced to perform.

“All the world’s a stage…”

It is not the people themselves. The HR people I know are great people. I am sure they are nice to their children and pets, but in the organisational context, they, like most of us, become, in a Shakespearian sense, actors walking on to a stage. The stage is set, the lines prepared and action roles on from scene to scene. Over time, the financial focus that HR people become fixated on shapes their worldview. Tom Peters suggests HR are “mechanics rather than visionaries”.

Even the name is a problem. A resource is something you store until it is time to use it – like firewood in a shed. In this video Stephen Covey points out, that on balance sheets, people are represented as an expense, while machines are an investment. He calls this the paradigm of the industrial model.

HR and employee engagement

If you access an annual report, or a sustainability report, chances are, that the main strategy for employee engagement is an engagement survey. Look to see if you can find anything behind it. More often that not, in my experience, there is nothing substantial to find.

We know that surveys such as the Gallup poll reveal low levels of engagement worldwide. What would be an effective level of engagement? What percentage of staff would need to be engaged to contribute to high levels of intrinsic motivation and performance?

To improve, we have to learn from those rare companies that exemplify great engagement.

The way forward

Incrementalism won’t do. I believe we need a rethink of the structure of organisations. As outlined in an earlier post, engagement needs be a core organisational capability.  By organising into three main functions, engagement, production and support, organisations are better equipped to engage with stakeholders. The engagement role can include HR, marketing, customer service and communications. Bundling them together, and heading them with an engagement champion will help to balance the contractual and developmental functions of HR.

I would love to know who, in your opinion, are exemplars of employee engagement.

Building capacity for employee engagement

The great thing about building engagement capability is the broad range of benefits. Engagement reshapes the nature of the relationship the organisation has with its stakeholders, be they customers, suppliers, owners, employees or the community. Reshaping the relationship with employees appears to have significant potential.

It doesn’t take long to find a damming array of reports revealing that, in most cases, employee engagement is woeful. Without labouring the point, here are some examples:

Employee engagement by region, from the
2011 BlessingWhite Employee Engagement Report 

The good news is that there appears plenty of scope to improve engagement. The even better news is, that the capabilities required to improve engagement with employees will be beneficial in other stakeholder relationships.

I may be biased, but engagement capability needs to be at the epicentre of organisational development.

Think of it this way; What action would you take if only a third of your vehicle fleet operated reliably, or your core systems rarely achieved their potential? I am sure you would focus your attention on it. So why is it that many organisations are unable to more fully engage their employees?

Engagement capabilities

Some organisations survey employees to learn more about engagement, but these surveys can actually further erode engagement if employees perceive that there is no follow up. Further analysis is probably not useful. Fortunately, the essence of engagement is in one-to-one relationships between people, and therefore capability for engagement can only be enhanced when individuals work on their engagement skills and develop those aspects of character that support engagement. These include integrity and trust. The Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann UK Survey found a clear deficit of these qualities where there was poor engagement.

The engagement spiral

The popular TV series ‘Undercover Boss” week after week demonstrates what happens when company leaders take time to get to know their employees. Typically their employees respond strongly when their boss acknowledges the effort they invest in the company. And as they get to know something of the private lives of their employees, empathy increases.

Of course organisational leaders do not have the time to engage with all employees, but all employees should have the opportunity to engage with someone with a leadership role. A sense of belonging and connection with the wider social group, including its leaders, is a fundamental human drive.

Developing engagement capability

The skills of engagement are simply communication skills, including listening, acknowledging and empathy. These are supported by qualities of character such as integrity and trust. Formally, these skills can be fostered in organisational development programmes in communication, leadership, change and organisational learning. And given the critical role that engagement has in 21st century organisations, they must be regarded as core skills for performance management purposes.

In earlier series of posts I identified engagement as one segment of the communication spectrum. Understanding the distinctive nature of engagement helps us to be more discerning about how we communicate, and helps us aspire to higher expressions of communication.

The tools needed to improve engagement are simple and close at hand. There are no quick fixes – the journey to improving engagement requires constant vigilance, but the returns promise to be significant.  Understanding the communication spectrum is a good place to start.