Employees distrust their boss?

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Boss is one of the most important factors affecting employees. Since their careers depend on bosses, subordinates will do anything to serve, satisfy or get along with their bosses to build a harmonious and effective workplace. However, according to American Psychological Association’s 2014 Work and Well-Being Survey (US) and The Yorkshire Building Society Trust Study (UK) reveal that half of employees do not trust their bosses and think that their company is open and honest with them.

Honesty and transparency are the top reasons of distrust. 48 percent of employees do not have faith in their boss integrity. Employees want to see no politics and hidden agendas in the workplace to make sure that they will get an accurate advancement and nothing obstructs their work stability. Some of them don’t trust in their boss’s potential and skills. Some of them, moreover, distrust their colleagues. Apart from honesty and transparency, what else can be the reasons why employees don’t trust their bosses?

–       Lack courage. Bosses are supposed to stand up for what they believe and want to do. Be confident in their skills and potentials in order to make subordinates feel confident as well. Boss that has no courage will make subordinates doubt about organization’s performance.

–       Self-centered. When it comes to making decisions, bosses should listen to their subordinates’ opinions. Employees are not content if their opinions are denied. When self-centered boss makes a decision, subordinates will doubt about it since they don’t involve in that decision.

–       Low salary? This seems irrelevant but the latest research reveals that the more employees earn, the more they trust. In UK, 57 percent of people with a household income of less than 25,000 pounds don’t trust their work colleagues and almost one in five of those admitted to feeling jealous of work colleagues. Therefore, when subordinates compare their salary to their boss’s and realize that their boss’s salary is overpriced, they will feel distrust about their boss.

–       Bad relationship. The relationship between boss and subordinates is one of the important reasons. Employees feel distrust about the boss who is not down-to-earth and doesn’t try to get along with work community.

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Trust is a precious commodity because it takes a lot of time to build it and a little time to lose it. Also, it plays important part in the workplace leading to good performance, level of risk taking, information sharing, group effectiveness and work atmosphere. Distrust may be a result from unsuccessful leadership. From what I have learned in class, if the boss is transformational leader, it will reduce distrust in the workplace. Transformational leaders are tend to guide and motivate their subordinates in the direction of established goals by clarify role and task requirements which means subordinates will be clear about what their boss are doing and the gap between boss and subordinates will be getting closer since the boss has to get along be a part of work community to inspire and motivated them that results in good relationship between boss and subordinates.

 

References

http://www.deskdemon.com/dnet/userpage_ar.php?page_id=926

http://www.hrmasia.com/news/latest-news/us-workers-distrust-their-bosses/186876/

http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/06/how-to-dispel-distrust-at-work/

http://blog.seattlepi.com/workplacewrangler/2010/02/02/when-employees-dont-trust-the-boss/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/glennllopis/2013/12/09/7-reasons-employees-dont-trust-their-leaders/

Stephen P. Robbins, Timothy A. Judge, 2013, Organizational Behavior, Pearson Educational Limited

How to Train Ordinary Heroes?

When thinking back at the last 13 weeks of this class, the case “The Ordinary Heroes Of the Taj” is definitely the one that made me and still makes me think the most. This story seems to come directly from the mind of Hollywood’s best writers.  Unfortunately this story dramatically happened. That day, ordinary people became ordinary heroes and part of it can be explained with a not so ordinary company: The Taj.  Everybody would like to think that he or she would have done the same. I have my doubts about that. Honestly I can say that I would not have reacted as well as the Taj’s employees.

What is really striking in this case is the number of people who became heroes. Usually in this kind of drama it is possible to find a person who acts as a “hero”. In this case all the employees have reacted as if they had been training their whole life for this event.

It is difficult to understand how this reaction happened. But we can be sure that the culture of the country and of the company played a huge role. I am convinced that this case can be the basis to improve our companies. Obviously all the companies cannot go to India to have the Indian culture but it is possible to replicate some points of the Taj Approach to HR.

Teach people to improvise rather than to do thing by the book.

In my opinion this is definitely the most important point. It is impossible to train the employees for every possible event, the company have nor the resources nor the time to do it. In addition our imagination is limited. Therefore the only viable solution is to train the people to improvise. This is obviously difficult and will ask time (Taj’s workers trained for 18 months instead of 12), but I am convinced it can have a huge impact on the company.

Ensure that employees can deal with guests (clients) without consulting a supervisor.

This point is closely linked with the previous one. It is worthless to train people to improvise if they need their supervisor’ authorization to act.  Giving more responsibility and more room to take decisions valorizes the employees which in turn can better serve the clients. As explained by a manager in the case :”if you empower employees to take decision

Insist that employees place guests ‘interests over the company’s.

This is difficult to implement because even in companies where “the client is king”, employees have a tendency to protect themselves and therefore to protect the company. This is a natural behavior but it is really shortsighted. The company needs to make totally clear that guest’s interests are over the company’s. This may have short term costs but it is nothing compared to what it can bring in the long run. In addition it is also good for the employees. As explained by a manager in the case:”if you empower employees to take decisions as agent of the customer, it energizes them and makes them feel in command.”

In conclusion, I am sure that those three points are the basis of the Taj employees’s reaction. I am even more convinced that just those 3 principles could lead to tremendous improvements in clients’ satisfaction, employees’ satisfaction and finally overall return for every company in the world.

 

Labels! Labels! Labels!

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No I am not talking about our consumerist obsession for branded goods and designer everything. I am referring to labels of a social kind – stereotyping. In a local context, you’ve probably heard this common stereotype where Asians are perceived as hard and effective workers, but are not outgoing. It has been found that labelling people is a way in which we categorise chunks of information and we literally label people as we meet them. It is a common human error and the truth is that we are all guilty of this ‘lazy social habit’. To demonstrate – which ethnic group is full of really smart people? Unless your answer was ‘none,’ you just made use of a stereotype

What are stereotypes?

Stereotypes are assumptions made about a group of people and are applied to individuals irrespective of their personal characteristics because of their affiliation with said group. Stereotypes can be positive, negative, or neutral, but no matter the type, it’s important to use extreme caution around stereotypes, especially in the workplace.

Stereotyping in the Workplace

The workplace is a social landscape in which we will likely meet people from all walks of life. While diversity in the workplace sometimes creates friction and problems due to differences in gender, age, personalities and culture, it also benefits an organisation by providing a variety of ideas, vision, styles, creativity, innovation, experiences and so on.

People use stereotypes to make decisions about co-workers or managers with little or no information about the person. A stereotyped person is not seen for who she is and what she can contribute to the business. If it is possible at all to avoid or reduce stereotyping in the workplace, many areas of organisational activity could thrive better. For example, employees may engage more actively in citizenship behaviours (OCBs), the enhancement of social capital within the company, unbiased leadership, improve work processes especially in teams, a happier working environment, etc.

Why do we want to want to avoid social labelling in the workplace?

Many of the most common stereotypes are derogatory. At times, social stereotyping may lead to prejudice behaviour and discrimination. Instead of giving people the equal opportunity to prove their personal worth we assign a predefined label to them. Such behaviour is deconstructive in the workplace as it instils negativity and unfair criticism. When stereotypes persist in the workplace, candidates for promotion may be overlooked, work teams do not function properly and the corporate culture erodes.

On an individual level, it directly hampers an individual’s ability to develop personal relationships and networking skills. In a simple example, imagine getting a new coworker who graduated from a different university. If you make assumptions about your new colleague based on the stereotypes affiliated with that person’s university, you might start off with a hostile and unfriendly relationship, which could significantly impede your ability to work together. However, if you were to get to know your new coworker as an individual, you would be able either to put aside any differences for the sake of productivity or to learn some new perspectives and build a strong relationship built on mutual understanding.

Stereotypes limit management’s ability to make best use of their employees’ skills and help them develop new skills. If a manager sees Tom as an Asian person who is good with numbers but not people, he may never be given the opportunity to develop his people skills and may eventually leave the company due to lack of opportunities. Stereotypes affect employee morale and productivity and ultimately turnover rate.

Additionally, it also hinders open communication and teamwork and lead to a perception of ‘us and them’ or ‘cliques’ in which members guard information, using it as a form of power. Failing to manage and include diverse employee perspectives and skills limits the company’s creativity, problem solving and competitive abilities.

Breaking Down Stereotypes

Breaking down, recognizing, and eliminating stereotypes begins with dialogue. Conversation reduces bias because we learn more about each other and reach an understanding. Conversation also reduces preconceptions by educating us on misinformation and it limits the spread of bias.

There are also other ways to eliminate stereotypes such as…

  • Respect and appreciate others’ differences. Imagine if people looked and acted the same. It would be boring!
  • Consider what you have common with other people — lots more than you think.
  • Develop empathy for the others. Try to walk in their shoes.
  • Educate yourself about different cultures and groups because expressing a stereotype about someone in front of your co-workers might even make you seem narrow-minded and judgemental

An Example of Workplace Stereotype

Baby Boomer vs. Generation Y: As the population ages, more and more people are choosing to work much longer in their careers. The Baby Boomer generation hasn’t grown up with technology as the Generation Y workers. So there is a tension between the tried and true ways of doing business versus the technological solutions of today. This generational gap can create serious friction in the work place. But instead of immediately stereotyping the individual, you should get to know the other person and appreciate each others strengths. Learn from each other.

References

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/susan-wilson-solovic/workplace-stereotyping-a_b_564233.html

http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/deal-stereotyping-workplace-4836.html

http://www.hrvoice.org/avoiding-stereotypes-in-the-workplace/

http://www.diversityinc.com/diversity-events/the-stereotype-threat-dr-claude-steele-mesmerizes-audience-video/

Effective Communication in the Workplace

Communication takes place every day in the workplace. It happens through different channels and scenarios. You could be emailing your superior, sharing a joke with your fellow colleagues or even an informal chance meeting with your company CEO at the lift lobby. The diverse avenues in which communication takes place creates challenges as each situation may require a tailored type of communication method. So how do we become all rounders in communication at the workplace?

The first and most important thing is to be able to read situation accurately and expertly. This is the first and most important step. We have to be able to differentiate that a work conversation with your best buddy at work is very different from a chance conversation with your CEO. The easiest way to differentiate is by your positional difference. A more formal and professional tone has to be used when speaking and communicating with a person of higher position and authority. Conversely, a less formal tone can work in the workplace for colleagues who are at your level. This common sense approach works and is relatively fool-proof.

Secondly, conversations at the workplace have to be clear and concise. The workplace is often an hectic and fast-paced environment. This means that many things are going on at each points of time. Clarity in the content communicated is highly important as it eliminates the probability of misunderstandings due to wrong interpretations of your messages. You do not want to send out an email which contains a high amount of ambiguity. It would lead to the need to clarify which slows down the entire process and also tarnish your reputation as an effective worker. One big misconception that people have is that they have to use big and bombastic words in their written communication. This leads to misunderstandings especially if the person’s command of English is not strong. Short and direct words bring across points clearly. A short email with clear language is much better than an email that is long and unclear in its message. If you want to be an effective communicator in the workplace, always remember to be clear and understandable in all forms of communication.

Professional communication can and should be personable at the same time. Often, people focus too much on the professional part when communicating that they tend to sound distant and uncaring. This leads to negative impressions being formed as people view your communication as merely a means of work and getting the job done. We should not forget that communication is an act being two human beings. As humans, we often crave for personal affinity as we communicate with others. Favourable impressions are also formed of people who we deem to be more personable. Would you rather do a favour for the guy who communicates like a robot or would you rather help someone who has a personal touch when talking to you? The answer is clear. Therefore, never forget what a difference a personal touch can make in creating effective communication.

Communication in the workplace is diverse. However if we manage to integrate our accurate reading of the situation with clear, effective and personable communication, we will well be on the road to be an effective communicator at the workplace.

Making yourself indispensable at work

i'm_not_perfect_but-74780In class, we learnt that one of the six principles of persuasion is scarcity. The term might seem more aptly applied in a marketing context through ubiquitous slogans such as “Limited Edition” and “Last Day of Sale”. However, through my research, I have found that when this principle is applied to our daily lives especially in the context of work, the potential effect is tremendous and life-changing.

According to a study conducted by Pwc[1], millennial want greater flexibility , work / life balance and global opportunities at work. These are invaluable insights into how an organisation can attract a millennial to work for them. However, I believe the inverse relationship is more pertinent and applicable to us. We need to be cognizant of how to position ourselves in a way that will attract an organisation to hire us and make ourselves indispensable to the company.

It should be noted that people mistake indispensable for irreplaceable. Everyone can be replaced. However, to be indispensable would mean being so good at your job that your boss and co-workers could not imagine replacing you. [2]

imagesFirstly, it is important to monopolise a particular skill at work. Hence, you need to find a particular task within the organisation that only you would know to execute. This could happen when someone with a unique skill leaves the company or when a new initiative is created that requires a skill the company never had before.

If you currently do not have a unique skill, fret not as it can be acquired through training [3]. For instance, if the company has a social media platform which no one knows how to fully utilise, going for an analytics course in this domain would make you more valuable to the company. Besides that, just by showing the initiative and desire to grow and develop new skills, you demonstrate to your boss that you are a great asset.

Secondly, even if you have a unique skill, there are no guarantees on what will be valued going forwards. Hence, it is important to keep expanding your skills every year. You can master a language that is not required of your position (be it Mandarin or HTML), stay current with technology and trends and continually improve your oral and written communication skills. Through this approach, not only are you expanding your skill sets, but you are also expanding your social network through the relationships you build in the pursuit of attaining those skills.

As you build your skills, it is important to keep your resume up to date and be aware of other opportunities through the network that you build. This is necessary even if you are not leaving your job because you should always keep your options open. In fact, by having an updated resume on platforms such as LinkedIn, you are potentially putting yourself in a position whereby other companies are competing for your skills which makes you more valuable at work and open to promotion.

Thirdly, beyond building new skills or expanding them, you could monopolise an important relationship to make yourself indispensable. You should find relationships that are crucial to the company’s survival and become the contact person for that relationship. As you build the relationship over time, you would be the only person who is a trusted advisor to that company making you essential to the company.

Besides that, you could also find ways to stand out in the organisation. One way would be to be a thought leader. Instead of subscribing to group think, you could apply yourself in a way that provides new and innovative thinking that will benefit your company. Hence, you should not be afraid to put your ideas across. Even if the idea was not accepted, people will value you for your unique insights.

A downside to being indispensable is that you are constantly putting pressure on yourself to live up to high expectations, hence when you encounter failure, it can be quite noticeable. However, it should be noted that it is much better to be seen as indispensable and fail once in a while that not being seen as indispensable at all.

[1] http://www.pwc.com/gx/en/hr-management-services/publications/nextgen-study.jhtml

[2] http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/09/05/17-ways-to-be-indispensable-at-work/

[3] http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20130305182412-59549-how-to-make-yourself-indispensable

How qualified are you for the job?

Graduates in Cap and Gown While summer season is the time for relaxation and vacation, most University students would find themselves in a frenzy to secure a Summer internship either locally or abroad. Personally, I am one of those students and through my relentless search for that ideal internship, I have also noticed how much local companies place emphasis on grades and use that factor as a filtering process for potential candidates. In certain banking institutions, grades become the indicator of one’s work ability in the work place. Are academic results a good indication of your achievement or rather, ability to be an effective worker in the workplace? While some acknowledge that the amount of discipline and consistency put in place to achieve the stellar results reflects your drive and motivation as a person, some beg to differ. There are other factors that companies look out for in employees in the long run, such as personality traits, job-fit etc.

More importantly, the term “qualification” is very much subjective with the increasingly complexity of constantly changing work, training and education environment. For example, who is more qualified for the post of an accounts executive?
(A) Person A who has a CAP score of 4.8
(B) Person B who has a CAP score of 4.3, leadership experience in school, represented Singapore in a debates competition and came in as 2nd runner up.

Well, it depends on what companies are looking out for in their candidates. With all things held constant, I would pick person B, Nonetheless, questions are emerging as to the validity of many qualifications as a measure of competence, for competency is more important in the long run for companies.

This brings me on to the next point: How qualified are disabled people to be employed?
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As seen from the excerpt, even in a developed country like Singapore, disabled people are still stigmatized in the workforce. In America, employers fear the cost associated with hiring. Despite the implementation of American Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1995 to help level the playing field for people with disabilities, there is still an education gap in the workplace. Many employers assume that they would have to spend unnecessary amounts of corporate funding to bring their business up to ADA standards if they were to hire someone with a disability. More so, there is a fear of additional supervision and loss of productivity. Employers are concerned about the special attention that may need to be devoted to employees with disabilities and may view this as a waste of time. Secondly, employers are concerned with their perceived requirements to have different productivity standards for two employees doing the same job. Imagine the workload of the Human Resource Department if such accommodations have to be made!

However, not every company is deterred as there are benefits involved when hiring disabled employees! The Holiday Inn is one of the few encouraging examples who see this pool of workers as alternative source of employment to solve their labour crunch woes. According to them, they stated that the company saved a lot on training and levies because of the high retention rates. Savings can amount up to $100,000 a year in foreign worker levies and staff training costs just by hiring 35 disabled workers!

Furthermore, from a public relations standpoint, hiring disabled workers can improve the image of the company in the eyes of the public. If the company hires a small community, they can establish a reputation as a company that offers a more diverse workforce, attracting prospective employees, customers and business associates. Other companies may also be inspired to follow, creating a more diverse and accommodating business climate.

Needless to say, government support plays a crucial role in encouraging companies to hire disabled employees.  For example, the new Open Door Programme  announced recently by Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing, helps facilitate the hiring of disabled people by setting aside $30 million in funding.

 

 

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This scheme is a greater incentive for companies as they can apply for subsidies of up to $100,000 if they hire at least one disabled worker and are committed to hiring people with disabilities. The money can be used on equipment, to redesign jobs, to train co-workers and to renovate the building to make it more accessible. There are also integration programmes in place to assist the HR department to train supervisors on how to manage persons with disabilities or training of co-workers on how to effectively interact and work with persons with disabilities.

In conclusion, I feel that potential employees need the chance and avenue to prove their competency and commitment to their job. While paper credentials are important, it cannot be used as a one-size-fits all approach to hire. There are many research that address the various aspects of what defines a good employee for the company, little has been done to include the marginalized community of disabled people in Singapore. It is my wish that apart from chasing productivity and being results oriented, local companies can invest more time to consider embracing such employees since they already have ample support from the government.

References
http://www.ncss.gov.sg/documents/uncrpddocs/260513%20(The%20Sunday%20Times)%20-%20Fit%20and%20happy%20to%20work.pdf
http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/new-programme-to-help/1082188.html
http://smallbusiness.chron.com/advantages-hiring-disabled-people-company-11233.html
http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp/www.disability.gi/images/default.asp?id=255
http://app.msf.gov.sg/Assistance/OpenDoorFund.aspx

Driving Engagement through Career Opportunities.

Building employee engagement has been a challenge for organisations on a global scale. Forbes has termed employee engagement to have taken the centre stage in Human Resource (HR), acknowledging the pivotal role it plays in motivating employees to achieve higher standards of productivity and the influence it has in building loyalty and commitment of an employee to an organisation.

Global trends have seen an adverse effect on employee engagement levels.

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According to an Aon Hewitt report on Trends in Global Employee Engagement, a significant majority of regions are experiencing a decline in employee engagement levels. The recent spate of human capital challenges rising over the past decade, coupled with the economic downturn beginning in 2008 have not only impacted employee engagement levels and perceptions globally, but has had resultant changes with regard to the drivers of employee engagement.

Given the significant role employee engagement plays in the workplace, an understanding of its key drivers would enhance the ability of the management to execute relevant and necessary decisions to strengthen the overall engagement of employees. The report further conducts employee engagement surveys to measure the level of employment experience across differing aspects of the work environment. An “impact analysis” is then conducted to determine key drivers and subsequently prioritises these factors in influencing engagement. The table below showcases the drivers identified in 2010, both globally and regionally.

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 The segmentation of these key drivers thus serve as a framework for management when deciding the route to take in increasing employee engagement, through focusing on increasing the level of engagement within the specific drivers that rank higher on the totem pole, thereby improving overall employee engagement in the process.

Career opportunities, in this instance, is undisputedly the highest ranked driving factor of employee engagement. As such, employers can tailor their HR practices in accordance to that through providing employees with avenues for career advancement. Whilst career advancements and progressions are more apparent in certain organisations or in specific industries, every organisation should work toward establishing a career development path for all employees, with the knowledge that this serves as a key driver to engagement. As improved levels of engagement greatly influence the retention rate for an organisation, it will benefit the organisation to building career opportunities as part of increasing employee engagement. This can occur in 2 phases:

1. Recruitment/Orientation

Upon recruitment or during the orientation stage where a new hire is assimilating into the company, it would be beneficial to discuss with the employee their expectations in terms of career progression and develop ways in which the company and the manager can put in place to aid the employee to achieving their expectations. With a development path that charts an employee’s progress, the employee can thus rest in the assurance that their employers are dedicated to developing their careers and will subsequently boost their engagement levels toward the organisation.

Such a system recognises the inclinations and aspirations of an individual. Every individual harbours a different set of ideals with regard to their path toward career progression. For instance, the Aon Hewitt report sheds light on the geographical differences in their prioritising of employee engagement drivers, as reflected below.

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Whilst career opportunities shows itself to be a common denominator globally, the employer can take into account such statistics and employ them to build employee engagement through understanding what drives the engagement of an individual, who could be of a different country, culture and background.

Furthermore, establishing such expectations right at the start would greatly align the expectation of both the employer and the employee to a common understanding, eradicating any miscommunication and misinterpretation of expectations once the full workload comes into play.

2. Quarterly Review

Upon establishing the framework of how career opportunities can build employee engagement and leveraging other relevant key drivers of engagement, employers can conduct quarterly reviews to measure and re-evaluate the engagement of an employee. At present, performance reviews are conducted regularly to review the performance of an employee and gauge where the employee is at in comparison to where they could be. Occasional employee engagement surveys are conducted to get a sense of the overall employee engagement. However, armed with the most current statistics on the trending key drivers of engagement, employers can reinvent their process of conducting employee engagement reviews or surveys. A greater focus can be placed on career opportunities and providing employees with the platforms to develop their career. For instance, employers can extend a greater ownership and control of certain tasks to an employee and expand their perspective through allowing selected employees to attend company functions or networking sessions to build their social connections that could boost an employee’s ability to develop social capital and potentially open an employee to new ideas and concepts of pursuing career opportunities within their workplace. Whilst this could mean an increase in the chance of poaching across companies or industries, the idea is that employee engagement is built through career opportunities and thus an employee would feel a sense of commitment and loyalty to the organisation and pursue opportunities within the organisation itself.

At the end of it all, driving engagement – commitment toward an organisation – is journey and not a destination in and of itself. Global trends can and will continue to have its impact on the key drivers of engagement. Evaluation of such drivers should thus be conducted on a consistent basis to generate the most updated data and aid management practices.

Reference to Study:

Aon Hewitt Report – Consulting (Talent and Organisation): Trends in Global Employee Engagement (2010)

Too Much Engagement Can Be Bad

In light of the hot topic of “Engagement” that has been commanding the attention of HR managers today, I was provoked to think about the extent of focus managers are placing on raising engagement levels. Although there is no one agreed definition of employee engagement, according to MacLeod and Clark (2009), it is “a positive attitude held by the employee towards the organization and its values”. Studies have shown how engagement leads to higher performance, more innovation, and overall profitability for the organization. So we can establish that engaged employees are good for the organization, but it is crucial to bear in mind that there are always limits.

I was intrigued to read about Google’s success in building engagement through culture and its benefits package. Google remains successful in improving employee productivity by using qualitative and quantitative data as a basis of finding ways to optimize its people.

For instance, an excerpt from the article states:

Lunch Lines: You know by now that Google offers free meals and snacks to all of its employees. So what’s the optimal lunch line? At what point is it too long where people waste time and too short where people don’t get to meet anyone new? What’s the prime happy medium? According to Google it’s about three to four minutes. Any longer and they may waste time, any shorter and they don’t get to meet new people.

A warm greeting for new employees: A warm greeting for a new employee turns out to have a big impact. A manager greeting a new employee with ‘Hi nice to meet you, you’re on my team, we’re gonna be working together’ and doing “a few other things” leads to a 15% increase in productivity over the following nine months.

googleplex-office

Googleplex Office with various perks for employees

 

Engagement at GooglePlex

 

However, are organizations executing efforts to increase employee engagement correctly? Do they know when and where to draw the line? When does the effect of engagement become too much and hence disadvantageous?

Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Integrators vs Segmentors. Many organizations have been quick to copy Google’s perks and wonder why didn’t these programs work to improve their organization’s performance? Well, basically there are two types of employees: Integrators – people for whom work life and home life have little distinction; who check office e-mail frequently at home on nights and weekends; and who like child-care facilities at or near their office so that they can bring a part of home with them to work. Segmentors, by contrast, like to maintain distinct walls between work and home. These are people made uncomfortable by a workplace filled with perks related to one’s personal life. Even employees with children can dislike the fact that their employer provides on-site childcare. Perks like Google’s works for Integrators, whereas an integrationist workplace results in less job satisfaction and commitment for Segmentors. Instead they are able to be more engaged in their tasks because they know that they need to finish their tasks in the allotted office hours to avoid working on them at home. Therefore, depending on the type of employees in the organization, different engagement strategies have to be taken.
  • Byproduct, not a cause. Some studies connect engagement with productivity, retention, and customer satisfaction etc. using statistical correlations. Other correlational studies have shown that firms with high engagement scores can have higher revenue per employee, high company growth rates, and earning higher shareholder returns. Ultimately, correlation does not prove causation. An alternative explanation for the apparent connection between engagement and productivity is that when employees are productive, well rewarded, recognized, well-managed, and when they produce a great product, then it is those workplace factors that eventually increase their engagement. Therefore, organizations may be too quick to pour their resources in to raising engagement levels in assumption that it caused the improvement in company performance. Engagement may be a byproduct of other more impactful people-management factors. More studies need to be conducted in this new area.
  • Double edged sword. Engaged employees are attuned to aspects of their work environment that will either facilitate or thwart their job performance. Research has shown that if they are not getting the resources they feel they need to perform at their best, their engagement diminishes and they become frustrate and may blame their supervisors. Given the higher proactivity and energy levels of engaged employees, this frustration could lead to turnover as they begin to look for more supportive work environments. This becomes more important given the cost cutting measures organizations are facing today. (There is a sharp distinction between employee engagement and organizational commitment. They are different – engaged workers are more likely to place importance on being able to perform well because their performance matters to them ahead of corporate loyalty (Christian, Garza and Slaughter, 2011). )
  • Burnout. Another limit to engaged employees is work overload, which can lead to lower levels of morale and job satisfaction. Workers who care most about their work feel they are not performing to their full capability because they have so much to do that they cannot do anything well, leading to burnout. Highly motivated employees are willing to go beyond the call of duty to help the organization, but when temporary overload continues and they repeatedly fail to meet their own high expectations, their motivation becomes directed at locating other job possibilities, leaving the organization at risk of losing key talent.
  • Bounded individuality. Too strong of an emotional tie may actually cloud individual performance and result in groupthink, causing employees to act on emotions rather than facts. Too much “engagement” may cloud decision-making and cause employees to discount external threats and the need for change. Corporate culture “antibodies” may also attack new hires that have yet to prove their loyalty.

 

In conclusion, organizations should be wary of the associated risks of developing too high a level of engagement. While I would encourage following in the footsteps of successful organizations such as Google, it is important for managers to not simply copy engagement activities blindly, but consider how their own diverse employees and different generations are engaged by different things, before coming up with their own relevant engagement programs. Ultimately, high engagement levels are good for organisations, but more research needs to be done to monitor the detrimental effects of surpassing the “healthy limits”.

 

Hope this provoked deeper thoughts on the subject and you guys managed to learn something. Thank you for a great semester! It was fun! 🙂      – Stephanie

 

References

  1. Main article: Inside Google’s Culture of Success and Employee Happiness. Retrieved from http://blog.kissmetrics.com/googles-culture-of-success/
  2. David MacLeod and Nita Clarke (2009) Engaging for success: enhancing performance through employee engagement
  3. Boutelle, Clif (2013) Engaged Employees Are Good for the Organization, but There Are Limits. Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP).  Retrieved from http://www.siop.org/Media/News/engaged.aspx
  4. Perk Place: The Benefits Offered by Google and Others May Be Grand, but They’re All Business. Knowledge@Wharton (2007, March 21). Retrieved from http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/perk-place-the-benefits-offered-by-google-and-others-may-be-grand-but-theyre-all-business/
  5. Sullivan, John (Feb 23, 2012) What’s Wrong With Employee Engagement? The Top 20 Potential Problems. Retrieved from http://www.ere.net/2012/02/23/what%E2%80%99s-wrong-with-employee-engagement-the-top-20-potential-problems/

Open or selective networking – what works best for you?

Inspired by the class presentation on professional networking, I wanted to add my thoughts on an issue I find interesting and important, which is whether open or selective networking works best for young students today. I believe that for many of us it might seem like ‘the more the merrier’ is the guideline when thinking about networking, and that too many LinkedIn connections never hurt anyone. However, living in a city with so many opportunities as Singapore, there seems to be an endless amount of business dinners and networking events to attend and only a limited amount of time. Therefore this issue should be thought through in order to maximize the benefit from your professional network. There are many pros and cons with the two ways of networking, so I will just address the ones I find most interesting and the ones that we did not pay that much attention to in class to add some more thoughts.

First of all, it is important to think through the potential impact to your reputation by attending different networking events. An innocent company dinner might harm your reputation if it is commonly known that the company is really not on your list of potential employers.  This is because your fellow classmates and future colleagues might look at you as a “networker” who goes to events for the sole purpose of receiving some future benefits from the people you meet there. This again might harm the potential to network with your classmates, which might be a way more interesting target. Nobody likes to feel that their relationship with another person is based upon the level of career benefit that can be extracted by the relationship. While this might be the underlying foundation for the relationship, and it certainly is in some cases, it should not be highlighted.

Secondly, an open approach to networking might lead you to lose focus on what you really want since time is limited. If an unknown company can buy you dinner and take you out, this seems fine. Will this however lead you to become tired the next day, thus hampering your opportunity to work for your real goals? Will you lose focus on the goals you really should be working to achieve? And will you spend unnecessary time maintaining a relationship that will not help you reach the position you want? These issues should be thought through before answering yes or applying for the event in every case.

Finally, if you are selective with the events you attend, you will also seem more interesting in the eyes of your peers. You will seem like a person who knows what he or she wants and who is not always accessible. This will greatly improve your networking opportunities, making people come to you instead of you chasing them. In lack of better examples: One reason why so many people try to flirt with the same person is that he or she rarely says yes.

To summarize, many of the arguments above are based on the assumption that you know which industry you want to work in and which job that might fit you, and in this case a more selective and concentrated approach to networking seems like the best fit. However, it might be the case that you have no idea where to work, in what sector or in which position. Open networking will probably suit you better in that case, but the real problem in this situation is the lack of self-awareness.

What characterizes a resilient organization?

Today’s fast changing business environments demand resilience from organizations in order to be successful. Resilience is the ability of a company to withstand external changes on the one hand without needing to specifically adopt to the changing situation and on the other hand to be flexible enough to actively react to new developments. Resilient organizations are therefore both: stable enough to withstand and flexible enough to adopt.

The question this blog post will try to answer is what differentiates a resilient organization from the ones that do not survive in changing environments?

One important characteristic for resilient companies is diversification. The organizations that survive the longest in business constantly question their portfolio of products, services or targets. External changes can make former bestsellers obsolete and new developed products might be disregarded in the possible opportunity they might be, by favouring the known products and lack of entrepreneurial spirit. External changes affect all organizations, the one who react fast but well thought out survive and profit from the situation.

To take advantage from external opportunities and to recognize changes in the business environment before it is too late an organization has to have a good outsider view. Active surveillance and analysis of the environment simplify innovation and investment decisions. Furthermore, these analyses provide an early warning system to detect changes faster which can be a key advantage, especially in difficult times.

Technologies to optimize organizational effectiveness can be implemented in every company. If every company can use the same techniques to be more efficient, the crucial strategic resource, deciding over win or lose, are the employees. Therefore, having a strong company culture which promotes resilience, flexibility and change is necessary to be successful in the long run. Growth potential from within the company originates from an actively shaped culture of openness and dialog. In a culture like this ideas from internal sources have the highest chance to be implemented. But company culture today goes beyond internal culture. Today, organizations are not only submitters of information but can also receive feedback and ideas from external sources. Social media offers new channels of interaction which can be used to improve the company culture, portfolio, reputation etc. Thus, an open organizational culture is not only an internal matter but rather as well an external topic today.

Simplification of internal structures is a big share of what makes a company resilient. A simple structure is easy to modify, reshape and customize in new situations. Especially when fast action is necessary for example in crisis times, simplicity comes in handy as fast decisions can be made based on sufficient overview over the company internal implications of the changes. Non contemporary and/or overgoverned processes should be reduced as much as possible to increase the company’s flexibility and thereby it’s resilience. Simplicity results in transparency which leads to easier and better decision making. Furthermore, simplicity enhances the agility of a company improving its ability to react fast.

Last but not least the big picture is determining a company’s path. The management needs foresight and vision to successfully lead in times of change. Too much focus on minor details often blocks clear view on the actual target. Approaching problems analytically from an internal as well as an external perspective leads most likely to the most favourable results.

Summarizing, a resilient company needs an internal and external view on its processes, culture and portfolio. These views promote early identification and exploitation of opportunities and prevent to fall behind the competition. Transparency and simplicity in the structure and the culture of an organization promote quick decision making and increase the general quality of the decisions made as the chance of mistakes in the problem analysis or in the execution of strategies is reduced.