Manager Recognition Matters for Employee Engagement and Retention
With the tenure of knowledge workers reported to be less than three years at a single company, the importance of engaging and retaining high-performers continues to grow. Beyond the feel-good part about recognition that confirms that you were noticed and appreciated, the link between manager recognition and engagement encourages future discretionary effort and increases employees’ intent to stay longer at their company.

The Research
Recognition matters a great deal to the recipient, but it also benefits the organization as a whole.  Our recent survey of over half a million employees from more than 8,000 organizations revealed that recognition is one of the top five drivers of employee engagement.  Yet less than half of those surveyed felt satisfied or encouraged by recognition from their superiors.

Employees really want to hear from their managers when they have done well. Why don’t more managers understand the link between manager recognition and engagement?

Managers, Why the Silence?
It wasn’t until we dug deeper that we began to understand why managers weren’t consistently praising their employees when they delivered above and beyond.  There are basically three reasons.

1. Managers Did Not Appreciate the Value of Recognition
Many managers do not have a clue as to how much their recognition matters to their employees. Some are so buried in their own work and so focused on reaching their goals that they forget about the link between manager recognition and engagement and how much even a simple pat on the back can mean.

Secondly, while effort is typically spent on teaching managers how to deliver negative feedback, managers are rarely taught how to use positive feedback as a necessary and important component of performance management.  Managers with highly engaged teams let their employees know they are watching and how much they appreciate extraordinary work.

2. Managers Did Not See Recognition as Valued by Their Superiors
Because they do not receive consistent or meaningful recognition themselves, many managers do not believe that recognition is something that company executives believe makes a difference. Smart executives measure their managers by their employees’ level of engagement and know that employee recognition is a fundamental component to increasing employee engagement.

3. Managers Did Not Have Easy Ways to Show Their Appreciation
Managers admitted to not knowing just how to best recognize their best employees. While it may seem simple, there is an art to giving meaningful, proportionate and authentic recognition.  Make it easy for managers by setting up systems and processes that will point out who deserves special appreciation and then provide ideas for how to reward employees in a way that is meaningful and aligns with your corporate culture.

The Bottom Line
All organizations want to improve performance. The ones that count on their people for success want to improve employee engagement and retention.  One powerful way to do both is to provide meaningful, appropriate and timely rewards and recognition.

Make sure your managers understand the value of recognition to the individual employee and to the organization.  Then provide the resources and tools for them to consistently deliver that value.

If you want to learn about research-backed ways to improve employee engagement, download The Top 10 Most Powerful Ways To Boost Engagement

When the News Is Bad
No one likes to receive bad news.  But it sometimes seems harder to deliver than to receive it.  If you do not know how to deliver bad news as a manager, it is time you learn before it is too late.  Unfortunately, too many new or inexperienced managers find it so difficult that they tend to avoid sharing bad news altogether.

How to Deliver Bad News as a Manager
By following a few simple rules of advice from experienced leaders, however, you can learn how to deliver bad news as a manager as effectively and painlessly as possible.

1. Whenever Possible, Deliver Bad News in Person
The first rule is that you should try whenever you can to give bad news in person. Why?  Because an attitude and body language of being supportive rather than accusatory can lessen the blow and can help assure the receiver that it’s not personal.

Have you ever received a “Dear John” letter?  It hurts not only because the relationship is over but also because your partner did not care enough (or have enough guts) to tell you in person.

2. Don’t Sugar Coat Bad News
The tendency is to try to soften the bad news with other good news or positive feedback. But what often happens is that you either come across as insincere or the negative message is lost in the positive.  Employee feedback is clear – they would prefer to have a straightforward conversation rather than a manager’s skirting or downplaying the issues.

3. Show Understanding
Don’t pretend that the conversation will not be difficult. Acknowledge that what you have to say will be hard to hear but that you want to be clear and truthful.

Perhaps an employee’s performance is not up to the standards you have set.  Be clear about where and how they need to improve and work on a plan together that will raise the level of performance in an acceptable time period.

Maybe the company has hit a rough spot and salaries need to be reduced across the board.  Be clear about why the cuts are necessary, how it will help, your strategy for a turnaround and how you expect to make up for the reduction within a certain time frame.

Bad news is a reality of business, but you can you can deliver bad news as a manager with authenticity and caring.

4. Be Open with Bad News
Invite questions and answer them honestly. If the recipient is not ready to discuss the bad news further at this time, schedule an opportunity to talk again.  Your willingness to share what you know and how it might be addressed will go far to build trust in your employees and make the news easier to accept.

The Bottom Line
The way the message is delivered does make a difference.  You need to learn how to deliver bad news as a manager. A little preparation can go a long way.  Be sure you are clear, direct, understanding and open.  You may find that, handled well and with empathy, a difficult conversation can become an opportunity to build a stronger relationship with an employee and improve their performance.

To learn more about how to conduct difficult conversations, download Effective Communication Skills – The Essential Ingredient in Any Interaction

 

How to Sell Change
When you have determined that change is needed at your organization, you have taken only the first step on the journey.  If you are committed to succeeding at change, it helps to understand how a bit of salesmanship can support and bolster your plan.  Successful change leaders know the effective ways to sell change to their stakeholders.

4 Effective Ways to Sell Change
We have learned that what works in sales can work with change initiatives.  And just like any sales situation, there are effective ways to sell change and there are ineffective ways to sell change.  Here are some steps, borrowed from a typical sales cycle, that can be translated into effective ways to sell change:

1. Know Your Clients
The best salespeople understand how important it is to know their clients – their business, their priorities, their challenges, their personal and professional ambitions. They learn all they can about those that they need to influence so they can empathize with their situation and more effectively present their case to help them be successful.

It behooves change leaders also to know their stakeholders, including employees, influencers, customers, and even naysayers.  When you know what your various stakeholders care most about and why, you can more easily understand how to best work with them.  This allows you to enroll friends as supporters and to identify how to overcome obstacles with those who are not yet on board.

2. Paint a Clear and Compelling Picture
Smart sellers know how to paint a clear and compelling picture of what it would look like when the client’s problem is solved. They understand that if they create a vision for the client of the desired future, the client is much more likely to buy into the solution.

Change leaders can use the same approach to help employees envision how the proposed change will make things better personally and professionally.  The more clearly they can define that future, the more persuaded their stakeholders will be.  The message should be easy to understand and it should include why the change is necessary as well as how it will affect the business and individual employees.

3. Build the Relationship
Just as trust is the basis for winning long-term sales partnerships, it is also the foundation of successful change. Every interaction should emphasize the message and its importance.  Your constituents need to believe that you are being straightforward and honest in your dealings with them, that you are actually capable of pulling this change plan off, that you have the backing of those that matter (executives and influencers), and that you are in it for the long haul.

4. Follow Through
The best sellers don’t walk away once the deal is sealed. Their focus is on building customer loyalty, satisfaction and success.  They do this by staying connected and monitoring the solution’s effectiveness.

So, too, must change leaders continue to track the results of the change initiative and stay in touch with their employees to make sure all is going as planned.  If not, they should be prepared to explore what is going wrong and figure out what needs to be adjusted.

The Bottom Line
The process of change has much in common with the sales process.  Both require an intimate knowledge of the players, an ability to inspire with a vision of the future, a relationship built on integrity, and consistent follow through.

To learn more about how to look at change from different perspectives, download The 5 New Lenses of Change Leadership

Employee Behaviors and Your Workplace Environment Are Linked
Does your work environment promote the right behaviors?  To answer this question, some argue that workplace cultures are created by the specific actions people take.  Others argue that people change when their environmental circumstances change.

We believe that both are true and that people’s behavior and the environment in which they live and work are inextricably linked.  In fact, employees tell us that behaviors and their work environment affect each other so profoundly that they cannot easily be separated.

Think of behavior as the “way” we conduct ourselves and think of the environment as the “context” in which the behavior occurs.  For example, most people behave differently at a party with close friends than when on a job interview.  This is a simple example of the environment shaping our behavior.

An Interesting Experiment on Work Environment
Our country’s distress at the opioid epidemic has fostered all kinds of innovative ways of trying to deal with this tragic situation.  But here’s one that was new and interesting to us.  Retailers in some of the hardest hit areas were at a loss as to how to prevent users from shooting up in their rest rooms, endangering themselves and others.

Turkey Hill Minit Markets, a 260-store chain based in Pennsylvania, changed the environment.  They installed blue lights in their bathrooms.  How does it work?  The blue lights make it difficult for users to find their veins.  They are forced to go elsewhere to shoot up.

And, like most environmental changes, it seems to be changing behaviors.  In blue light stores, there are far fewer needles or overdoses.  How can you learn from this experiment?

How We Define the Work Environment
Let’s start with how we define the work environment.  We believe it is a leader’s job to create the circumstances to consistently get the most out of their people in a way that fits with the organization’s core values, behaviors and strategies. Does your work environment promote the right behaviors?  Based upon this assumption, we have found that high performance environments have three attributes in common:

1. Clarity
High performance environments provide crystal clear direction as to where people should focus. Everyone knows the actions that must be taken, the expected outcomes of those actions, and how success will be measured.

2. Transparency
High performance environments use clear, credible and fair methods to consistently let teams and individuals know where they stand compared to performance standards in terms of Doing (generating desired results) and Being (achieving them in the right way).

3. Meaning
High performance environments create motivation by providing compelling reasons for people to stay, strive to perform and commit to continuously improve.

The Bottom Line
While blue lights in the bathrooms may not be your ticket to improved performance, your work environment has a direct impact on employee behavior.  Consider your work environment as not only the physical surroundings but the levels of clarity, transparency and meaning that help shape your culture.  Then tweak and adjust so that the context in which your employees work supports the desired behaviors.

Does your work environment promote the right behaviors?  To learn more, download The 3 Hidden Levels of a High Performance Culture

A Misaligned Workplace Culture Creates Problems
Once you accept the fact that workplace culture matters (and matters a lot) when you are trying to build a high performing organization, then you can focus your attention on what culture gaps might exist.  And you should care about a misaligned workplace culture because it increases the chances that your top employees may become disengaged and quit.

The Definition of Workplace Culture
Workplace culture is how things truly get done in an organization. It is the way people think, behave and work. It includes the behaviors, systems, and practices that drive key business decisions – especially in leaders and in who they hire, fire and promote.  Your business and people strategies must go through your workplace culture to be successfully implemented.

Why Culture Matters
Peter Drucker famously said “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  Research agrees with him:

  • Watson Wyatt found that culturally aligned organizations return 286% more value to stakeholders
  • Harvard Business Review reported as much as 50% of the competitive difference between companies in the same industry can be attributed to culture
  • Our own organizational alignment research found that culture accounts for 40% of the difference between high and low performing companies in terms of revenue, profits, customer satisfaction and retention, leadership effectiveness and employee engagement

The Definition of a Misaligned Workplace Culture
We define a misaligned workplace culture as a work environment in which “how things get done” is in not in complete harmony with “what needs to get done” to execute the business and people strategies. A misaligned workplace culture makes it more difficult to get the right things accomplished in the right way.  In a misaligned workplace culture there is a lot of friction, resistance and dysfunction.

Conversely, our research found that a well aligned workplace culture can improve productivity by as much as 25%.  What impact would this have on your organization?

Why Workplace Culture is Often Misaligned
The creation of a strategic plan consists of a straightforward set of tasks than can typically be described, documented, and completed. When executing these goals, however, the relative simplicity of creating the plan quickly morphs into something significantly more complex, most notably because of culture.

Goals rarely fail because defined structural obstacles were not overcome (although many plans fail to recognize these obstacles). Plans too often fail because organizations haven’t adequately defined or aligned their cultural business journey to executing their vision. Culture is hard to change because many organizations have a highly fragmented set of underlying belief systems which determine how to interpret and accomplish these goals.

The critical beliefs required to size up and execute the goals (what we call the secret sauce) are rarely articulated, measured, or purposeful.

Warning Signs of a Misaligned Workplace Culture
The first warning sign of a misaligned workplace culture is when the basic building blocks of leadership – trust and accountability – are lacking.  Misaligned workplace cultures lack confidence in their leaders to follow through, make necessary changes and to act in alignment with the company’s core values.   A misaligned workplace culture also lacks the necessary levels of pride, confidence, transparency, openness and focus to engender the trust required to create high levels of engagement and performance.

The second warning sign of a misaligned workplace culture is a lack of clarity regarding what each individual and team is expected to accomplish and how they are expected to think and behave in achieving those accomplishments.  When beliefs are in misalignment and disconnected to the strategy, it is difficult to hold individuals accountable for results or behaviors.

How to Create Culture and Strategy Alignment
If you are afraid that you may have a misaligned workplace culture, here are four steps to get you started in the right direction:

1. Uncover the Current Culture
Your first step is to assess your current corporate culture to get a clear and accurate picture of the way things are getting done and why. This is very different than your aspired culture and desired corporate values.  You want the unvarnished truth of what it is like to work at your company on a day-to-day basis.

2. Identify the Necessary Culture
Your next step is to agree upon the workplace culture that is required to best execute your strategy.  We have identified 10 dimensions of an aligned workplace culture which provide a framework to define and align the appropriate continuum of beliefs needed to best execute your strategic goals and make it easier to get things done.  Using the unaligned-to-aligned continuum approach allows everyone to be right, thus breaking down a critical resistance faced with most change efforts.

3. Agree Upon the Critical Few Culture Gaps and Next Steps
Not all cultural dimensions are of equal importance in terms of strategy execution. Leaders must agree on the one or two cultural shifts that will have the greatest positive impact on moving the strategy forward for your unique situation in a way that makes sense.

4. Deploy an Aligned Culture
Once you identify the one or two areas to create strategy and culture alignment, it is time to identify and prepare culture champions, to create short- and long-term action plans to create alignment, and to establish and track accountability for culture and strategy alignment targets.

The Bottom Line
If you want your company to perform at its peak, you need to create a culture that aligns with your strategy. That’s the way to accelerate strategy execution and outperform your peers.  Creating alignment between strategy and culture empowers everyone to become more interdependent and act with a more unified mindset.

To learn more about how to align your culture with your strategy, download How to Build a Purposeful and Aligned Corporate Culture.

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