Keep Your Team Engaged
Engaged teams advocate for their companies, outperform their disengaged peers, and intend to stay for the long term.   Based upon surveying over half a million employees across more than 5,000 organizations every year, our engagement research shows that engaged workers are over 40% more productive and effective than their unengaged counterparts.

We believe that a company’s engagement index is the equivalent of your company’s stock price for your organizational health.  Done right, employee engagement is the cumulative result of strong people strategies, structures, systems, and processes that produce discretionary effort and loyalty.

10 General Rules on How to Keep Your Team Engaged
Engaged teams advocate for their companies, outperform their disengaged peers, and intend to stay for the long term. 
While the process of engaging employees differs from company to company, there are some general “rules” that apply.  The degree to which employees are engaged depends on their perception of:

1.  Alignment With Goals –how well employees understand and agree with the organization’s strategic direction and the extent to which they understand how to directly contribute toward overall success

2.  Individual Contribution –willingness to exert discretionary effort toward their work

3.  Team’s Effectiveness –getting the right people on the teams and the right people in the right roles

4.  Retention Expectation – intent to stay and perceived opportunity for growth

5.  Trust of Coworkers – relationships and closeness within teams

6.  Manager Effectiveness – how well managers perform their jobs and how much employees respect them

7.  Trust in Senior Leaders the employee’s perception of senior leaders’ capability and commitment

8.  Feeling Valued – the organization’s commitment to its people in terms of development opportunities, fair compensation, and making the company a great place to work

9.  Job Satisfaction – the intrinsic value an employee finds in their role

10.  Benefits – the degree to which employees believe the benefits offered meet their needs

Tips Especially Helpful for the High Tech Sector
Though there are common engagement trends across all companies and industries, here are some tips on how to enhance employee engagement on teams responsible for innovation and cutting edge technology:

  • Encourage Questions and Risk-Taking
    Create a safe environment where everyone is encouraged to share and contribute their ideas and talents.
  • Ensure High Quality Work
    Provide whatever training is needed to keep individual contributions at the highest level of quality so other team members can depend on each other. And give team members freedom to develop their own ideas apart from their regular tasks.
  • Staff Teams that Will Work Well Together
    Beyond providing the structure and clarity needed for employees to understand expectations for a job well done, assemble teams of individuals whose strengths and styles complement each other.
  • Establish Purpose
    Make sure each team member understands the purpose of their team’s goals within the larger context of what the organization is trying to achieve and how that contributes to society at large.

The Bottom Line
When you can create strong teams, you optimize your chances of business success.  Strong teams optimize talent.  Engaged employees enable strong teams.

To learn more tips to keep your team engaged, download The Top 10 Most Powerful Ways to Boost Employee Engagement

Top 4 Sales Leadership Mistakes to Avoid – Complex Sales Can Be Complicated
In some respects, selling solutions is pretty basic.  You have a product or solution; you find a likely prospect that appreciates your offering; you add value; and you negotiate the deal.  But at each stage in the buying process there are potential pitfalls.

Are your sales reps fully prepped to win?

Top 4 Sales Leadership Mistakes to Avoid
We work hard to address the specific needs of our sales clients.  No business, no team, no product, no market is just the same.  A generic approach to sales development is ineffective.  But we have found that sales leaders, as different as their challenges may be, make many of the same mistakes.  Here are four to avoid:

1. Not Investing the Time to Fully Define and Understand Prospects
First, underperforming sales teams are not clear about which customers fit best. Ideal target clients create repeat business, provide referrals, and supply testimonials.  Secondly, underperforming sales teams do not invest enough upfront time or money researching prospects or asking insightful questions – two necessary ingredients to build rapport and set yourself apart from the competition.

2. Not Knowing How and When to Coach
While most agree that sales managers are accountable for achieving sales team goals, underperforming sales leaders do not invest the time to properly coach their sales reps to succeed. Our research found that sales coaching boosts sales performance 4-to-1 compared to reps who do not receive consistent and frequent sales coaching. And it’s not about telling reps what to do but guiding them to change their behavior in alignment with your unique sales strategy and culture.

3. Over-thinking Decisions and Delaying Action
Sales leaders set the example. When leaders are too slow to make a decision, everyone notices.  High performing sales leaders gather the facts, analyze the decision, and set the right course to move their sales strategy forward and to help their customers to succeed in a timely manner.

4. Playing Favorites
Yes, every team has high performers and well-liked people. But it is not right to excuse any team member from living the team values, executing the sales strategy, or following the sales methodology. Leaders who play favorites lose trust and decrease accountability.

The Bottom Line
Can you say you are not guilty of any of the above common failings?  Take a moment to consider whether any of the four impact your ability to be a good sales leader and, thus, the success of your sales team.

To learn more about sales leadership mistakes to avoid, download The Right Amount of Sales Performance Pressure to Get Results

Bad Company Culture Definition
We define company culture as the way things actually get done in an organization.  Workplace culture reflects the way employees think, behave and work and includes the known and unspoken values and assumptions that drive good and bad practices and behaviors.

Good or Bad Company Culture Definition
Cultures can be either good or bad for your workforce and aligned or unaligned with your strategy.  A healthy culture is characterized by positive employee engagement, high performance and leaders who live their values and hold employees accountable for doing the same.  A bad company culture definition is just the opposite.

Positive cultures can help companies perform at a high level (i.e. Southwest Airlines or the New England Patriots); bad cultures can hurt performance (i.e. The Department of Veterans Affairs, Wells Fargo and VW).

A Bad Company Culture
When a company culture goes bad it may be marked by political infighting, interpersonal conflict, discriminatory practices, and subpar performance.  But there can be an impact beyond a company’s bottom line and its employees.  When there is no “true north” or accountability for acting in a fair, open and ethical way, a bad company culture can promote unethical behavior that negatively affects not only the workforce but also a company’s customers.

An Example of a Bad Company Culture
As long ago as the 1970s, 3M knew their non-stick Teflon pans posed proven health dangers to humans ranging from an increased risk of cancer to a greater likelihood of heart attacks.  3M continued to produce the harmful compounds which were discovered in the 1990s to be everywhere in the food chain, from fish to humans. How could a company act in such an unethical, unconscionable way over the years?  Because their toxic workplace culture allowed it.

3M – The Impact of a Negative Company Culture
Employees can become infected by a company’s bad culture.  Just as employees can be buoyed by a positive environment, they can be sickened by unethical leadership.  Bad company cultures teach leaders and employees not to ask questions and encourage everyone to look the other way and disregard their own ethics when they check in at work.

Finally in 2014 the responsible chemical components were banned in the U.S. as a result of litigation and Environment Protection Agency investigations launched by an alarmed attorney.  But it took four decades. What are you allowing to fester in your organization?

The Bottom Line
Don’t underestimate the power of organizational culture on the success or failure of your business.  How and why work gets done can be a powerful force for good or bad.  Make sure that the workplace culture that you are fostering protects openness, truth and cooperation and not cover-ups in the pursuit of greed.

To learn more about how to align your company’s culture with your strategy and your values, download The 3 Levels of a High Performance Culture

A Better Way to Set Strategic Priorities
We believe that strategy is fundamentally about two things: (1) Making difficult choices about which big bets matter most, and (2) how to stretch limited resources to make those big bets succeed. Not all strategies, markets, customers, investments, programs, resources or approaches are of equal value. Successful leadership teams agree upon which strategic initiatives deserve priority in terms of focus, investment, and duration.

How to Set Strategic Priorities
Many companies adopt the practice of ranking strategic initiatives. Some even set and communicate up to twenty five top initiatives. But too many priorities can dilute focus and performance. How can you possibly allocate limited resources to twenty five priorities with the confidence that they will all be accomplished on time, on budget, and at the right quality?

A Better Way to Set Strategic Priorities
Here is a better way to set strategic priorities that keeps limited resources strategically focused on what matters most while taking into account the day-to-day realities of running the business. We recommend sifting agreed-upon strategic initiatives into three different priority categories – Big Rocks, Pebbles, and Running the Business. Actually, as you begin your strategic analysis, there may be a fourth category – an initiative that belongs “on the shelf.”

Big Rocks – The Critical Few
These are the top 2-3 initiatives that deserve topmost priority because they have the greatest comparative correlation to success. Together, the Big Rocks should account for 50% or more of the probability for strategic success, command the greatest attention and receive all of the necessary resources. The Big Rocks should be at the top of your strategic dashboard, monitored weekly, and directly tied to your performance management, workforce planning, and compensation plans.

The Pebbles – Significant but Not Crucial
The pebbles are important initiatives that, even though they are less important comparatively than the Big Rocks, can have a positive impact on overall business performance. They deserve designated resources but their objectives and time frames may vary depending on the shifting needs of projects in the Big Rocks category. In other words, the Pebbles should only be completed if they do not negatively impact the Big Rocks.

Running the Business – A “Given” to Keep Things Going
Strategic Planning Sessions often identify the big initiatives but fail to account for what is required to run the business on a daily basis. For example, an HR team cannot focus on attracting top executive-level talent if current interviewing practices are illegal.  A CEO cannot focus on a game-changing acquisition if current margins are not up to par.  And the head of sales cannot focus on selling new solutions if the current pricing and compensation plans are not aligned with the new go-to-market plans.   Do not underestimate the need to allocate resources toward ensuring things do not break or create toxic levels of misalignment.

The Bottom Line
Strategic categories force prioritization, create transparency and drive workforce alignment. Every employee should know how and why their unique contributions fit into the categories. At the end of the day, the Big Rocks must get done and the business cannot have any big failures. Then the pebbles should ill in the remaining space if you have the time and resources to make them happen.

To learn more about a better way to set strategic priorities, download 3 Big Mistakes to Avoid When Cascading Your Corporate Strategy

Nudging to Change Workplace Behaviors
The idea of nudging to change workplace behaviors has been gathering steam.  According to Nobel Economist Richard Thaler, “a nudge is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates. Putting the fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.”

What We Like About Nudging to Change Workplace Behaviors
Having worked on many successful and some not so successful change initiatives over the last 25 years, we know that humans are not always rational.  We were immediately attracted to the idea that you can better change workplace behaviors through smart choice architecture rather than top-down imperatives based upon only urgency and logic. Based upon our experiences with large and small scale change, it makes sense to us that “easy, attractive, social and timely” options will promote a greater likelihood of behavior change.

Examples of Nudging to Change Workplace Behaviors

  • Improving Employee Health
    Instead of mandating what kind of food will be in your cafeteria, you could start by offering healthy food that is easier to reach, less expensive, and more attractively displayed than less healthy options. You can also make the healthy choice more socially acceptable by adding nutrition information to all food choices.  Schools that have adopted these approaches have reported an 18% increase in sales of healthy foods.
  • Making 401k Contributions
    Most people report wanting to put more money aside for retirement, but they become hesitant by potentially complicated and time consuming decisions. In a recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research of 14,000 employees, the simple act of changing the choice from Opt-In to Opt-Out (not an expensive or elaborate change) increased 401k contributions by 55%.
  • Donating Organs
    Similar to 401k contributions, countries that make organ donation a default choice have up to three times more organ donations (85-90%) compared to countries that make people Opt-In (25-30%).
  • Using Urinals
    One of our clients runs an industrial cleaning and maintenance service for large aerospace, healthcare and government municipalities. The more they can encourage their clients to keep a clean workplace on their own, the more they can invest in value-added services with higher margins.  In 2009, the Amsterdam airport installed stickers in urinals giving men something to aim for.  Amazingly, this simple nudge reduced spillages by 80%.
  • Anchoring Menu Choices
    Restaurants have been using choice architecture for years to promote higher average spend per customer.  For example, most restaurants have one very expensive entrée and wine on their menu.  This enables the second most expensive item on the menu to seem like a relative bargain.  How often do you select the second most expensive glass of wine?

How You Can Use Nudging to Change Workplace Behaviors
What if you want Sales and Marketing to cooperate more effectively together?  Or how do you ensure your culture becomes more customer centric?  What if you want to increase team accountability?

Sure, you could dictate the “what” and the ‘how”, but you are unlikely to get much positive response.  After all, your sales and marketing teams have been at odds for years, your company has been purposefully treating customers transactionally to decrease your cost of service, and your goals are not clear enough to truly hold people accountable.

If you want to use nudging to change workplace behaviors, think about how you can influence choices by making your desired behavior changes easy, attractive, social and timely.

The Bottom Line
“Nudging” appears to be more successful than taking a heavy-handed approach to mandating change or restricting choice.  Invest the time to determine how you can gently nudge people toward desired behaviors through smart choice architecture.  Are you ready to test the “nudge” theory at your organization by making the desired new behaviors easier, more appealing, and more socially accepted than the alternatives?

To learn more about how change leaders leverage organizational structure, download 5 Science-Backed Lenses of Change Leadership

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