I have been predicting a coming "employee free agency" for quite some time. What do I mean by employee free agency? It is the shift of power in the hiring proposition from the employer to the employee. In other words, employees (at least the best talent) are increasingly going to be able to control their future, able to choose among the best opportunities.
As ridiculous as this prediction may have sounded over the past couple of years, it really isn't a hard prediction to make. You see, 2010 was the first year of a decade that will have 65 out of 80 million baby boomers retiring. While the recession has delayed those retirement dates, it is inevitable that eventually those workers will be leaving the work force. When they do, combined with a recovering economy (as slow as that recovery may be), employers are going to face a mad scramble to replace all that experience, talent, and labor. Employers will find themselves having to compete for the best talent in ways they have never experienced before.
According to a recent survey done by career site Glassdoor, it appears we may be seeing the early signs of that impending free agency. According to their survey:
And, this isn't the first time we have heard this from employees. A study done last year by MetLife showed identical results, that 1 out of 3 employees hope to be working somewhere else within 12 months and an alarming 60% of "high performing" employees having the same hope.
As an employer, you can choose to not believe the survey results, but that will be a costly mistake. Among employers, there will be winners and there will be losers as this plays out. Winners will find an increasingly effective work force. The losers however will suffer with lower productivity, higher turnover and increased costs as a result of both.
So, how are you positioned? Are you going to be seen as an employer of choice, a destination for the best talent? Or are you going to see the quality of your talent depleted, the best-of-your-best attracted away by your competition?
Don't take your employees for granted, and don't let their silence fool you into thinking they are satisfied. They won't let you know they are out looking for a new job, but according to this survey at least one fifth of them already are.
Photo by woodleywonderworks.
Managing the performance of your employees is the key to maximizing their productivity. A Hacket Group study backs this up showing that companies who excel at performance management post earnings that are 15% more than their competition who are less effective at managing performance, they show a 22% improvement in net profit margin, and they spend 6% less on HR overall.
As important as they should be, almost nobody likes performance reviews. They’re uncomfortable for the giver and the receiver, largely because managers aren’t adequately trained in how to make performance reviews meaningful. While I would certainly encourage you to make that training investment, I would like to suggest a simple way to improve in this area right away.
Instead of thinking of performance reviews as an annual event, start by thinking of the review process as an ongoing dialogue, a dialogue that needs to start with the right questions
David Farr, CEO of Emerson Electric, is noted for asking every employee a short list of questions such as . . .
Together, the answers help employees discover how their role links to the overall company direction, puts a sharp focus on continuous improvement, and highlights how much coaching and development is valued by the organization.
When people choose for themselves what to do instead of just being told, they are always more committed to the outcome. So, although as a leader you likely feel a responsibility to tell your employees how to improve, you'll do better by asking them questions that will help them reach their own conclusions about how to improve.
Photo by takomabibelot.
As you read this article, look at it from two perspectives. First, reflect on how your own agency may be impacted by employee engagement. Second, think of your clients and the impact they are experiencing, as well as how valuable a partner you would become if you could help them improve their current level of employee engagement.
See if this sounds familiar:
AnyCo is a mid-sized business. Things were humming along pretty well; the firm's future seemed bright. Then, almost overnight, the economy seemed to implode around it. Revenues were on a steady decline. Margins were evaporating even faster than revenue. The confidence employees once had in their future started to wane. Further investments to grow the business had to wait. They lost complete sight of the vision that once drove their efforts. In fact, all that mattered was the bottom line—keeping the doors open. Survival became their new definition of success.
To ensure that survival, AnyCo had to lay off all but the most critically needed employees. The budget dollars for training and development were quickly eliminated. Salaries were initially frozen and eventually had to be cut. Employee benefits suffered the same fate. Increases in premiums had to be passed on to the employees, but soon even core benefits had to be eliminated.
These weren't decisions AnyCo management normally would have made, but they had become necessary just to survive. However, as necessary as these actions were, they weren't without consequences. The result was that the remaining employees became frustrated, angry, and more and more disconnected from the business until their level of employee disengagement was at an all-time high.
Our working definition is: "The positive connection an employee has to the organization and to the organization's vision. The higher the level of employee engagement, the more positive the employees' behaviors, and the more successful the organization becomes."
More important, why should an employer care about the level of employee engagement?
Recent studies conducted by Towers Watson, and Gallup, have identified that an organization that has an average level of employee engagement has a payroll efficiency of 63%. To translate that to dollars, for every $100,000 being spent on payroll, that employer whose employees are engaged at an average level is receiving only $63,000 worth of work in return. I don't know about you, but after I read that statistic, I had an entirely new appreciation for employee engagement.
Of course, payroll efficiencies will never hit 100%, but think of the bottom-line impact on the organization that can move these points even a littler higher!
So where does the remaining 37% of potential employee efficiency go?
When a company suffers from poor levels of engagement, there are a lot of associated costs, but many are liable to be overlooked:
As bad as all of this is, it gets even worse. Lack of employee engagement likely means lack of client engagement.
Dr. Gary Rhoads of Allegiance, a consulting firm specializing in employee loyalty and engagement, recently wrote a paper titled "The Spillover Effect," in which he identifies the correlation between employee and customer engagement as one of the most significant drivers to profitability. The more engaged a company's employees, the higher the likelihood of having engaged, rather than just satisfied, customers. Engagement is contagious. Not only does it spread from employee to employee, it spreads from employee to customer.
Research shows that when customers are engaged, they spend higher percentages of their discretionary dollars with the company with which they feel engaged and prove to be more profitable on each of those dollars spent than are the company's merely satisfied customers. Additionally, a synergy is created when a company has both engaged employees and engaged customers. In fact, they can expect to drive twice the financial results compared with organizations that are able to achieve active engagement from only one key group.
If an organization displays the following characteristics, they are in a good position to have high levels of employee engagement
Employer engagement—The company actively seeks to understand its employees and acts with the expectations and preferences of the employees in mind.
Perception of job importance—Employees have a clear understanding of the importance of their job and how it contributes to the organization's goals and objectives.
Clarity of job expectations—Success in each position is clearly defined, and the resources needed to meet that success are provided. As a result, the employee can focus on organizational success rather than being preoccupied with personal survival.
Career advancement—Each employee has a clear plan of personal development and a realistic path of advancement.
Opportunity to contribute—Employees have clear opportunities to contribute ideas and initiatives that will improve the organization.
Feedback—Employees always know precisely how well they are performing; they receive formal updates on a regular basis. A bonus check is nice, but it will be quickly forgotten (that's not to say it isn't important, but it isn't the complete answer). However, sincere and specific comments on what an employee did well may last forever.
Based on the list above, you probably have a good idea of how to improve employee engagement when it is poor. However, here are a few specific ideas.
Repeat, but not right away. After you have given yourself sufficient time (a year at a minimum) to implement your initiatives, ask the employees how they are making a difference. Fight the urge to start asking too soon. Cultural changes, including improving employee engagement, take time to take root. Asking for feedback too soon will result in inaccurate feedback.
Employee engagement isn't a project; it's part of the culture. It may take specific projects to improve it from time to time, but we have to work everyday to make sure it is maintained. As levels of engagement improve, you will find that the rewards most coveted by engaged employees tend to change. Make sure your reward system is in alignment with what employees value.
Salary isn't the only motivator. The higher the level of employee engagement, the lower down the list of desired rewards financial compensation moves. Engaged employees tend to value non-compensation types of rewards. They value personal development, a rewarding job environment, and an ability to make a difference, to name a few. Think about it—the things that engaged employees value are the very things that will result in even greater returns for the company.
While employee engagement may seem to be elusive and intangible at times, the impact it has on virtually every aspect of your organization (including customers and bottom-line profitability) makes it something that can't be ignored.
Perhaps the greatest thing about an engaged organization is the exponentially higher return you will receive for continued efforts. You can create an environment that will drive a greater return you receive on investments made through your employees (training, benefit programs, team building, etc.), or you can reinforce a culture that emphasizes wages as the primary reward and continue to just plug the meter with disengaged employees hoping that more money will result in more productivity. Of course, the former takes more of a planned strategy, but the results are well worth the effort.
So, who is AnyCo? Well, perhaps it should have been named EveryCo. There isn't a company out there, whether it's your agency or any of your agency's clients, that can't benefit from very consciously focusing on employee engagement.
As a broker, you're in a unique position; the strategies and experience you gain from working on your own internal employee engagement can easily become a service you take to your clients.
Originally published in Rough Notes magazine March 2011.
Photo by Yasser Alghofily.
I often wonder how much time and productivity is wasted because people don’t know how to use the basic programs they’re given to do their jobs. I believe that the basic office programs (MS Office or other similar programs) are thought to be something that “everyone knows how to use.” Therefore, there is no focus or training put into educating staff on how to efficiently and effectively use the programs.
I guarantee your productivity will go up if your staff really knows how to use their tools.
I know my way around most of the programs pretty well. For the most part, I learned the same way as everyone else – I taught myself. However, based on my personal sampling over the years, I feel fairly certain that I know far more than the average self-taught person. I can accomplish a formatting issue in a mere fraction of the time that others spend hours laboring over and not wanting to ask about.
I have been so astounded at the lack of competency over the basic use of programs, that I practically begged one employer to let me teach classes to the staff. 10 minutes at a time, a couple times a week. I guaranteed results – increases in productivity. But was told “No thanks. We don’t need it.” This - coming from the people who aren’t plugging away at spreadsheets and complicated written documents day in and day out.
Whenever I would get the chance to show this team some basic skills, they would be thrilled and started begging me for more training. Disconnect between management and staff, perhaps??
Don't allow this to happen in your organization. Make an investment into training your staff and you'll see the results in increased productivity and decreased frustration.
1. If you’ve got money to put into training, do it in a professional setting.
- You could send your staff to a local community college or other training center to learn one program at a time.
- You could work with the college/training center to possibly have an instructor come on site and do the training (If there is a way for staff to learn something new and then immediately practice it on their own daily projects, that’s best).
2. If money is tight and you’ve got someone on staff who knows their stuff and can communicate like a teacher, employ them as your new staff trainer. Any improvement in their knowledge and subsequent skills will help them work more efficiently.
3. Online training programs can be a great alternative for the cash strapped or those who prefer independent learning. Google “online training + [program name]” for some options. Microsoft offers training programs for each of their Office apps.
Are we too embarrassed to admit that we don’t know? Is it because we’re supposed to already know how to use these programs that we can’t admit we really don’t know?
It’s kind of like walking into a health club and pretending to know what you’re doing and then falling flat on your face when the equipment turns on because you really don’t know. It’s just best to ask for help - you'll have a better experience and are more likely to return.
And if you train your staff how to use their programs, they'll stop wasting company time, and your productivity & profits will increase.
- They'll have the skills do use the programs effectively & efficiently
- There will be a culture of training, so asking for help will not have the stigma it does today
If you’re reading this realizing that you’re one of the people who doesn’t know, let me make you feel better – I have yet to work in a company where, other than a copywriter or maybe an accountant, do hardly any of the staff really know how to use these programs. Not only are you not alone, you are in the vast, vast majority.
Bottom line – I suggest you make the investment to train yourself and train your staff. Your budget will thank you.
Wasted time and effort put into creating documents by otherwise highly capable and talented people:
These are some biggies that I’ve seen many times. Do you have any program blunders to add to this list? Share them with us in the comments below!
Do you wish you had an accountability culture in your company?
If you’ve said “Yes” to this question, then you should definitely keep reading. We’ve got some free tools to get you started.
Companies that create an obvious vision and a clear path with accountability to achieve the vision, see greater results from their teams.
We’d like to see that happen for you. And we’ve created a guide to get you started on your path to developing that culture.
Your team will not only produce better results that are in alignment with the company goals, but they’ll be happier as a result, which means they’ll be more engaged and work harder, plus they'll stay with the company longer.
Sounds like a win, win, doesn’t it? It is! So get started today and download the free BGN Accountability Culture Kit.
Track your progress, and let us know how it’s working. We’d love to hear about it, and might even write up an article documenting your progress!
What am I doing to drive revenue? What am I doing to drive the mission of the company? What am I doing that is contributing to the core business needs of the company?
Wouldn’t it be great if everyone in your company asked these questions of themselves? Think about how much farther ahead your business would be if everyone was really able to think like an owner of the business, taking responsibility for the financial and organizational health of the company.
There is no way that an employee can ask these questions of themselves and offer legitimate answers if they don’t know the purpose, vision, and values of the company.
As a company, you must have a purpose for why you are in business, you must have a vision for where your business is going, and you must have values to drive the behaviors to accomplish the purpose and the vision.
As a business leader, it is your job to have your business sorted out (purpose, vision, values) and then lead your team to help you accomplish those goals. And it’s best to have them participate in forming some parts of the plan in order to create ownership and drive their motivation.
Part of that means teaching your team to think like an owner. Using that phrase itself is meaningless to most people. Actually teach your team to think like owners. Ask them the questions to drive their thoughts and behaviors that will truly make them act like owners and consider the financial and productivity impact that their actions will have on the organization.
If you need help getting started with this type of training, I recommend reading “What the CEO Wants You to Know: How Your Company Really Works’, by Ram Charan. He gives great examples of how to get the wheels spinning and teach your employees to understand their responsibility in the overall picture of the company financials.
Consider this a process. It will take time to develop a culture of responsibility- teach first with understanding and patience. Then follow up regularly with conversations to help reinforce the idea and the increasing accountability of this behavior. You’ll soon find people sharing ideas with you and asking one another, “How is this activity/project/task driving revenue?”
If it’s not driving revenue, they should be able to bring the concern to the leader/owner, and have a discussion about it without fear of retribution. If you really want your team to think like owners, then you need to allow them to behave like owners, as well. There can be no sacred cows in this type of culture. Celebrate the responsibility and contributions that everyone makes to the financial understanding and success of your company. You’ll find that it will be contagious among the team!
Do you spend time teaching your employees to understand how their role impacts the big picture? Do you encourage them to take responsibility for the financial health of the company? Share some examples of what you’re doing in the comments section below.
Photo by walknboston.
Benefits Growth Network introduces remote work program development for their employee benefits agency solutions program.
St. Louis, MO – May 3, 2010 – Benefits Growth Network, a consulting firm specializing in growth and implementation strategies for employee benefits agencies, today announced that they have selected SuiteCommute to join their partnership solutions program, BGNAdvantage.
The BGNAdvantage program is a select group of service partners for BGN member agencies to use as solution providers for their clients. The services in the program are focused on long-term reduction of costs, reduced claims and absenteeism, and increased employee engagement.
SuiteCommute works with companies to develop effective remote work programs focused on bottom line productivity. Whether an organization’s motivation to begin offering remote work options is disaster prep, expense reduction or retention and engagement incentives, SuiteCommute creates a program to address the specific business needs of the client. They help manage the process with comprehensive training for both management and employees around the developed policies and procedures.
There are many opportunities for potential exposure which companies often overlook when considering remote work options for their employees. “Understanding how to manage remote workers and maintain productivity can be a completely new area for many companies,” explains Kevin Trokey, president of Benefits Growth Network. “Working with SuiteCommute to develop a program and uncover those areas of risk is not only good business practice, but imperative for a successful remote-work solution.”
Brandon Dempsey, president of SuiteCommute explains, “Ad hoc telecommuting programs are a recipe for disaster. We work closely with our clients to ensure that they are legally compliant, and we also want to be sure they are able to reap all the incredible benefits telecommuting and remote work can offer to both the employer and the employee.”
Both BGN and SuiteCommute are dedicated to helping businesses succeed through improved operational efficiencies and overall profitability, making the partnership between the two organizations a natural fit.
“Having worked with H & H Health Associates as an employer and understanding the impact they are able to have on an organization, they were a natural choice to be our wellness partner in the BGNAdvantage program,” says Kevin Trokey, BGN President.
For more information about the Benefits Growth Network program offerings, please visit www.benefitsgrowthnetwork.com.
About Benefits Growth Network
Benefits Growth Network, based out of St. Louis, MO, is an international membership-based consulting firm specializing in growth strategies for independently-owned employee benefits agencies and departments. Through the exclusive Benefits Growth System™, members get individualized planning, coaching, training, use of proprietary systems and access to a network of thriving benefits agencies. For more information about Benefits Growth Network, visit www.benefitsgrowthnetwork.com
Who will emerge from the recession first?
That’s easy. It will be those companies who quit focusing merely on how to survive the day and start planning on how to thrive tomorrow. It will be those organizations who are the leanest, fastest, and who are the most engaged.
Prior to the recession, employers were emphasizing the importance of attracting and retaining employees. Employee free agency was seen as imminent as there was projected to be a surplus of 10 million jobs by 2010. While the recession may have delayed that surplus, employers have unknowingly placed themselves in the eye of a perfect storm by complicating the matter further. As the recession took root, there was a quick and almost sudden pressure on bottom lines. Companies enacted layoffs and cut expenses such as training and education initiatives, reduced benefits, and stopped communicating with their employees. While the layoffs may have made them lean, these are actions that haven’t created a “sustainable lean”, and certainly haven’t created fast or engaged cultures.
How can you be lean? – In order to get more from less, you better have the best talent in your industry/market. While current employees may be happy to have a job, they are not happy. Identify your critical employees and make sure an effective retention strategy is in place. Become remarkable in the eyes of your current employees, and attracting the best new talent becomes significantly easier.
How can you be fast? – Fast can only happen in organizations with a culture of trust in place. Develop and implement programs that focus on teamwork, leadership, and a more open forum of communication.
Employee engagement = productivity. - When the cost of human capital can be as high as 30% - 50% of revenue in some industries, it is critical to get the greatest return possible on that investment. Think about it, a 10% increase in productivity is the equivalent of adding 3% - 5% to the top line. While employee engagement is an idea that may feel elusive, there are some simple ways to make improvements. One study showed that when managers focus on employee strengths rather than weaknesses, the likelihood of active disengagement dropped from 22% to 1%.
Lean, fast and engaged. These are the ingredients for companies to once again start focusing on innovation rather than just focusing on operations. It is innovation that will bring a return of healthier profit margins.
Employers are going to be looking to their HR departments to help make them lean, fast and engaged. Because HR positions tend to be eliminated early during layoffs (non-revenue producing position), they are going to find a department less prepared for such a strategy than ever before.
What an opportunity for us to make a difference! Let’s look at our role as filling that strategic void. Funny, I don’t recall reading anything in the new healthcare legislation that can take this opportunity away from us.
Originally published on agencyfuel.zywave.com © Copyright 2010 Zywave, Inc.