Of the three keynote speakers at HR Florida, Daniel Pink was definitely my favorite. He shared some phenomenal ideas to motivate employees, and I’m already looking at ways to incorporate those concepts into the workplace.

Quote of the day

Management is an 1850s technology for controlling people at work. -Daniel Pink

Commissioned vs. non-commissioned work

motivation work daniel pinkHe touched on several pieces of interesting research, but the most interesting was a study of commissioned (someone pays the artist to create it) and non-commissioned (it is created by the artist with no compensation in return) artwork. A random selection of both types was assembled, and the objective judges provided some interesting feedback. While both sets fit the requirements for form and function, the non-commissioned works were judged as more creative nearly every time.

The takeaway for business leaders is that we should look for ways to provide non-c0mmissioned work opportunities for our people. An Australian software company called Atlassian offers what they call “Fedex days” to their employees. Basically the staff has the opportunity to work for 24 hours on projects not directly related to their daily duties. The only requirement for employees during these events is that they have to make a presentation to the company describing what they worked on.

They have had incredible success with this program, and the projects and tools that have been developed during these day-long work marathons have helped to spur innovation and creativity throughout the organization. In short, it works.

Autonomy-it matters

It’s been known for quite some time that autonomy really is a powerful tool to get your people invested in their work. When was the last time you asked someone to describe their best boss ever and they replied, “He/she was always looking over my shoulder and was quick to point out when I was wrong. I love my micromanaging boss!”? I’ll go ahead and state the obvious: that has never, ever been said by anyone!

One of the hard parts after hearing a session like this is to figure out how to apply it to your daily work. Daniel Pink did a great job of offering ideas to put into action (including taking the Fedex Day idea above for a test drive). He called this one the autonomy audit.

How to perform the autonomy audit

Ask employees to rate these four questions on a 0-10 scale (0 being low control, 10 being high control):

  1. How much control do you have over your time at work?
  2. How much control do you have over your technique at work?
  3. How much control do you have over your team at work?
  4. How much control do you have over your task at work?

You’ll end up with a score between 0 and 40. Next ask the manager to predict the employee’s score from 0-40. Then (here’s the kicker) share the employee’s score with the manager. Almost always the manager’s prediction will assume the employee has higher control than the employee believes.

the levity effect book reviewI have read The Levity Effect: Why It Pays to Lighten Up, and I think it’s a fantastic book for people to read in order to understand the impact that humor and levity can have in the workplace. Scott Christopher, the author of the book and speaker at the session, had so many fantastic quips and quotes that it might as well have been a comedy session with some learning thrown in. It was phenomenal and I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed hearing him speak.

One of our core values is to have a safe and enjoyable workplace. That’s why we have photos of office staff in men’s helicopter flight suits and videos of bagpipers playing in our lobby. We take the enjoyable part very seriously. Well, not so seriously. Anyway, you get the point.

Five quick points:

  1. Figure out what’s fun and share that (healing patients vs. serving food, building relationships vs. recruiting candidates, etc.)
  2. Herb Kelleher-Southwest Airlines-order of recruiting importance from least to greatest: education, experience, humor Continue reading

My first concurrent session at HR Florida was titled “Developing an Effective, No Cost Recognition Program.” Truthfully, it was my second choice because the other one I wanted to attend was unavailable, but it was a suitable replacement. The speaker, Todd Efird, gave us some great information on using recognition at work. While the examples focused around construction safety, there were still some solid takeaways for someone working in a corporate environment.

Incentives: doing it wrong and doing it right

It’s the classic problem with workplace safety incentive programs, really. When you base someone’s incentive on not reporting accidents and injuries, you have unintended consequences like suppressed reporting, a negative view of the program, etc.

Instead of following the old mentality, a better, more effective way of operating the program is to incorporate positive recognition that is timely, relevant, sincere, and tied to individual performance.

Praise vs. Recognition

One of the best comments during the session was when the speaker differentiated between praise and recognition at work.

  • Praise is basically a quick, simple “attaboy” or “attagirl” for a job well done. For example, telling someone “Great job on that presentation” is praise.
  • Recognition is a two-way communication that requires a confirmation from the employee. For example, telling someone “I thought that presentation was killer, what about you?” is a way of making sure they understand the feedback and it opens the dialog for further interaction/engagement.

Leaving that response open ended is the key, really. Allowing someone to respond with a “yes” or “no” will not necessarily get the results you’re looking for. Conversely, if you leave the conversation hanging and allow them to respond, you not only get potentially valuable information, but you also continue the conversation and make it memorable in their mind.

Open ended questions also help supervisors to lead people to the right answer. That flies in the face of the old school “catch them doing it wrong” type thinking.

Key quotes/takeaways

  1. Most employees know what you don’t want already. Share with them what you do want. Then recognize them when they do it.
  2. If you’re wanting to recognize people, keep looking for the right they’re doing, not the wrong. More people are doing it right than wrong at any given moment.
  3. Start meetings with “here’s how we did well” instead of “here’s where you screwed up.” That approach opens people up to feedback.
  4. Find out if employees want to get recognition in front of peers or not. Some studies show hourly workers want it privately so they aren’t seen as “sucking up” to the boss.
  5. Every organization has people who are impervious to positive recognition/feedback efforts. They’re called CAVEmen: Citizens Against Virtually Everything.

All in all it was a fantastic session and I’m glad I attended. We have some recognition tools we’re using currently, but these free, relatively simple concepts can have a major impact on the people nonetheless.

Stay tuned for more posts coming to you live from HR Florida 2011!

Which of your supervisors holds the best meetings?

I was in a session at HR Florida and the speaker tossed out that question. Most of the audience likely ignored it, but I couldn’t get it out of my head. I honestly didn’t know the answer within my own company, and I’m willing to bet many of you probably feel the same way.

When you’re looking for ways to coach managers and help them be better leaders, you should be asking questions like that. Why? Well, for starters, it helps you to see who your real leaders are. Just because someone is in a position of authority doesn’t necessarily mean they are a leader in the organization. These types of questions help to uncover the hidden aspects of what occurs in a department and how that impacts the organization as a whole.

On another level, it’s your job to provide support to these leaders. How can you do that when you don’t know what’s going on and how they are doing it? 

Yes, it’s a tough question to ask yourself, but it’s worth it to understand where the gaps are for your people and to start thinking ahead about ways you can help to close those gaps.

Other questions to consider asking

As you consider asking these questions, keep these thoughts in the back of your mind: do the managers know the answer, and (no matter if they do or not) do they understand the importance of knowing and utilizing this information as a leader? Then put the shoe on the other foot. Do you know these answers for your own people? 

  • How do your people like to be recognized for their efforts?
  • What kinds of activities do you do on an interdepartmental level that add value to an employee’s day?
  • What do your employees enjoy about working here?
  • Who holds the best meetings? What about them is enjoyable or appealing?
  • Do you let your people have a say in hiring decisions? Why or why not?
  • What sort of feedback do employees prefer to receive?
  • Do employees have a way to offer praise in a public or private setting for their peers? Is it encouraged?
  • Are employees aware of upward feedback methods? Do they utilize them?

And that’s just off the top of my head. There are others, and I’m sure you have some to share. What questions can you ask to help ensure that supervisors know the necessary information about their staff to make informed decisions about leadership?

Stay tuned for more posts coming to you live from HR Florida 2011!

Whew. I don’t travel that often, but the coming weeks are going to be quite busy. I hope to meet many of you at least once in this whirlwind, so check out the list below to see if we’ll be at any of the same events.

calendar of events

HR Florida-August 27-31

This is my first HR Florida excursion, but I’m really pumped to attend. From working with a few friends on the pre-conference Social Media Academy to having the time and topics to blog about throughout the duration of the conference, I am very excited about this experience.

Hire Minds-September 28-30

The good folks at Snagajob reached out to me about speaking on social media and I couldn’t turn them down. It sounds like an amazing event with a small, intimate group of incredibly talented individuals. I’m honored to attend!

HRevolution-October 2

I did a video a few days ago on HRevolution. If you want a ticket, it’s one of the cheapest events out there but has a consistently high rating from attendees. Definitely encourage you to check it out!

HR Technology-October 3-5

While I might not be able to stay for the entire event, I’m a geek/nerd at heart, so you know I’ll be in love with some HR technology. Working for a startup means that we’re always just one big proposal win away from needing something more powerful than Excel as an HRIS system. :-) I’ll be looking for some ideas and hope to meet some great people for the first time there.

In the midst of that is work, family, and volunteer stuff, so it’s definitely going to be a wild month, give or take a few days. So, how about it? Anywhere you’d like to meet? Feel free to shoot me an email!