Tag Archives: Employee Engagement

Engaging Employees with Technology Choices

Last week I had the chance to speak with a local HR leader. She was lamenting her company’s hideously awful HR module that was an add-on to the company accounting software. The firm paid plenty of money for the module, but it is ineffective, inefficient, and virtually useless. It looks like it was coded/developed in 1993, if that tells you anything. There are no reporting, searching, or other core capabilities that would make the system a valuable tool to help improve the HR team’s service delivery. So I told her to stick with Excel for a while longer until they can convince the CEO that they need real technology. A while back I wrote about a very similar topic: how consumer demands for technology are shaping what we and our employees want in our workplace technology.

Consumer Trends and HR Technology

When we asked global participants in our recent Employment Value Proposition survey whether their HR technology makes life easier by providing access to relevant information to help employees manage their career, the response was a dismal 13%. About one in 10 companies believes HR technology is truly making life easier for employees, and that is a problem, because employees have high expectations for the technology they use.

hcm technologyWhen it comes down to technology selection, there are a wide variety of inputs that help to drive the decision. Some of them are very specific, revolving around cultural or business-oriented requirements. Others are larger in scope, affecting virtually every company that is evaluating technology. The two global trends that are having the greatest impact on technology selection today are consumer-driven demands and personalized recommendations.

Consumer-Driven Technology Demands

The release of the first iPhone in 2007 was a leap forward in delivering a delightful user experience. Since then we’ve seen an increased number of companies focusing on usability as a key driver of selection decisions. The apps, video content, and social capabilities of the smartphone era have enabled users to be more productive. These tools enable users to achieve more in less time, helping them to fully realize the value of technology like never before.

And now those expectations extend to workplace technology as well. Your employees are accustomed to personal computing experiences that are intuitive, engaging, and user-friendly. They now expect their work environment to provide technology of the same quality and fidelity, whether mobile or desktop.

Personalized Recommendations

Users have become ac­customed to visiting Amazon and other online retailers for their shopping needs, and one thing these stores do very well is offering personalized recommendations based on browsing history, previous purchases, and other online activity. Bought a purse? They will offer you a similar one, or a complemen­tary item. Purchased a food item? The site can help give you recommendations based on what other similar us­ers liked.

This concept applies to talent technology in the form of guided experiences. Employees appreciate hav­ing a personalized experience with technology without it feeling too scripted or forced. The benefit here for business leaders is less time spent walking users through the software or tailoring it to each individual’s needs. It’s a win-win for both parties and helps to keep users engaged.

The Technology Outlook

When we look at satisfaction ratings for technology, whether learning, talent, or HR, we see a definite trend. Companies are not particularly happy with their existing technology. Just 19% of organizations say they are very satisfied with the quality of their overall technology environment, according to the 2015 Brandon Hall Group EVP study.

It’s time to look at your technology options not just as a means to an end, but as a method for engaging your workforce through multiple touchpoints on a regular basis. From the applicant tracking system, onboarding tools, and performance management platform to something as mundane as an address change, you have the opportunity to create a great experience for your employees with your technology.

Consider your existing HCM technology. Would you say it provides an engaging experience for employees? Why or why not?

The New Recruiting Metric: First Year Retention

As HR is increasing its presence as a strategic part of the business, key performance indicators, or KPIs, are becoming a key part of the language for discussing how it is actually performing. Recruiting, in some ways, is actually easier to measure because it is very similar to sales: you either have results or you don’t. Today I want to talk about first year retention, a measure that I believe is going to continue to grow as a recruiting metric, even though many companies wouldn’t consider it even remotely linked to recruiting as of today.

recruiting kpiWhen I realized the link from retention to recruiting

Several years ago I ran into the wall. Figuratively, that is. I was spending about 50% of my time processing termination paperwork and 49% processing new hires. The other 1% was spent wondering just how we were going to sustain this churn. We were turning over about 50% of employees in positions that made up 90% of our workforce. In a company with more than 600 employees, you start to get the picture for just how bad things were. Like I said, my entire job was dedicated to moving the people into and out of the organization.

So I decided to try something. I gathered information. I pulled five years of archived files and noted termination reasons along with tenure and manager information. I looked into our Stone Age HRIS and pulled the same items for more recent terms. Once I had amassed the data, I started analyzing. I quickly identified a few key trends and highlighted them in the report I developed.

A few days later I presented my findings to the VP of HR, demonstrating through the data that approximately half of those terms not only happened within the first year, but within the first 90 days on the job. We were spending hours recruiting, training (each employee received over a dozen hours of training before starting work), and coaching these people, only to have all of that effort wasted. The data showed that if an employee made it past the 90-day mark, they were significantly likely to stay for a year or longer.

This is when I realized that recruiting has a very strong link to retention, especially first year retention.

[Check out: What it’s like to be a recruiter]

First year retention, examined

When we think about retaining employees, a more senior staff member might come to mind. We automatically assume that if someone took the job just a few weeks ago that they are going to be excited and engaged for months to come (hint: the honeymoon period). Well, that depends on several things, including the recruiting process. Here are the ways the two are linked:

  • Realistic job preview-during the recruiting process, an accurate picture of the job must be depicted at every stage (job ad, phone screen, interview, etc.) If not, the candidate might get a more rosy picture of the position than is actually accurate, which leads to frustrations on day one. People are quick to skim over areas that might be bothersome for them in the leap to a new company–it’s critical to show the good, the bad, AND the ugly to provide a full understanding of the job and what it entails.
  • Manager engagement in the hiring process-having managers who not only join in the selection process, but actually lead it, is key. Managers who develop questions to probe candidate abilities and fit ultimately pick better people than those who use a stock list of “what is your greatest strength” type questions.
  • Team engagement in the hiring process-a great way to help people feel like they have friends on day one? Let their team interview them. When I have done this I request that they ask some technical questions, but that they also focus heavily on fit: does the candidate gel with the existing workers? Are they similar in terms of values and passion? How have they felt about coworkers in the past? If a person feels like they have friends at work, they’re more engaged and less likely to bolt a few weeks later.

[Check out: How one of the best managers I’ve ever seen engages new hires from day one]

The future of recruiting metrics

In the past and still today, recruiting has been focused on some very surface level items: mainly time to fill and quality of hire. If we’re solely looking at those numbers, I could have phenomenal time to fill and quality numbers, only to have them dropping out of the workforce a few weeks or months later. Using a metric like first year retention as a recruiting metric provides a more well-rounded picture of just how well it is actually being performed. And it also brings a long-term, holistic view to recruiting.

What recruiting KPI’s does your company use? Are they working? What do you think of first year retention as a metric?

Prioritizing Employees by Engagement Level

The most engaged… are first in line.

mailchimpRecently I read a blog post about email marketing and delivery, and that line struck me. Stick with me, because I think there’s an intriguing question it brings up.

People that run companies and blogs often use delivery services to communicate with customers and readers. I use a tool called MailChimp and have for several years. I have a little bit (okay, a lot!) of a geeky side, so I follow their blog to stay up to date on best practices for email marketing, product updates, etc. A short while back they posted an interesting piece describing how they send emails to large groups quickly. Here’s a snippet:

Our sending infrastructure is designed to turn large campaigns into smaller “payloads” to get them out the door much faster. When you click Send in the Campaign Builder, you’re actually telling MailChimp to start biting off parts of your campaign. As each payload is created, it’s immediately routed to our Mail Transfer Agents (MTAs) and queued for delivery. We organize this based on subscriber member ratings, so the most engaged subscribers in your campaign are first in line.

In email marketing speak, engaged subscribers are those that open, read, and click through the emails. Over time they are ranked based on how often they complete those tasks from highly engaged to not-so-much.

That made me wonder–what would happen if we could tweak our HR service delivery to prioritize those who are most engaged? For instance, if two requests come in for support and both will take an hour to complete, we would determine which employee was most engaged and handle their request first.

What if…?

On one hand, it seems like that approach could have a detrimental effect on those already on the cusp of disengagement. But should we be focusing our efforts on those individuals? I mean, engaged staff are pretty valuable to the organization…

Jim Harter Ph.D., a chief scientist at Gallup Research explained what engaged employees do differently in an email interview: “Engaged employees are more attentive and vigilant. They look out for the needs of their coworkers and the overall enterprise, because they personally ‘own’ the result of their work and that of the organization.”

Harter, who has co-authored over 1,000 articles on the topic as well as two bestsellers, also says engaged employees “continuously recreate jobs so that each person has a chance to do what they do best.” Engaged employees “listen to the opinions of people close to the action (close to actual safety issues and quality or defect issues), and help people see the connection between their everyday work and the larger purpose or mission of the organization.” When engaged employee do this they create a virtuous circle where communication and collaboration nurture engagement and vice versa.

Considering the benefits, why do companies still struggle to foster engagement? Harter writes, “Many organizations measure either the wrong things, or too many things, or don’t make the data intuitively actionable. Many don’t make engagement a part of their overall strategy, or clarify why employee engagement is important, or provide quality education to help managers know what to do with the results, and in what order.” Source

On the other hand, just like we’ve learned over time that focusing on strengths can deliver more value than focusing on weaknesses, maybe we should be focusing on making sure those engaged employees get the best service that the HR team has to offer. If we consider it logically:

  1. It helps to maintain or improve engagement levels
  2. It helps to prevent a slide toward disengagement
  3. It might help to drive additional results from those individuals

Another similar example of this is handling support requests from free and paid users of a product. Often times when companies use the “freemium” model and have a free version of their tools, the paid users have priority when it comes to getting support/help from the provider.

What are your thoughts? Would it make sense to handle our requests from employees based on the individual’s engagement level? What would be potential benefits or pitfalls? 

Engagement Tip #49: Highlighting Employee Interests

I talked previously about my jump to Republic Wireless. I love the phone and the service, but I also love following the company’s blog and learning more about who’s behind all of that greatness. Recently they shared a very unique idea that I wanted to explore today.

At Republic, we aren’t actually corporate robots stored in closets at the end of the work day (although I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords). We’re people with talents, hobbies, and interests outside of our work providing value for our members through our phones and service. If you happen to wander the halls of Republic HQ in Raleigh, North Carolina, you’ll see dozens of framed photos of employees that answer the question: What Do You Love? (Source)

Continue reading

Unconventional HR Advice: Love Your People

love your employeesLast week I was listening to a business owner talk about how he leads his company. He talked through several areas he thought were pertinent, but one statement he made really stuck out.

You have to love your people.
-Zack Penney

As I think back over my time as an HR professional, the times that I felt like I was making the most difference in the lives of my staff was when I held a very similar mindset. We have to care for these people, because if you don’t someone else will. It’s no different than marriage, kids, friends, etc. We all want someone to value and care about us. If we don’t get it from our immediate surroundings then we tend to look elsewhere for it.

Not only that, but when it’s time to make decisions that affect the people that work with you, it’s going to help you to frame those decisions. I know that just because you care that can’t drive everything you do, but doing something negative with care, respect, and concern for the person on the other end of the transaction will soften the experience and make it easier to digest.

And if you’re reading this and thinking, “There’s no way I could really care for these people I’m working with,” then it might be time to find somewhere else where that is a possibility.

As you go through your day today, ask yourself:

  • Do I really care for these people?
  • Do they know it?
  • If I have to deliver bad news, how does that care and concern factor into the discussion/decision?

What say you? Is this a worthwhile aspiration or a silly waste of time? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Intuition is a Critical Skill for Great HR Pros

Intuition, awareness, or whatever you want to call it–it’s a critical skill if you want to be a successful HR pro. I’m a fan of examples to prove my point, so let’s dive in!

Seeing the needs of new employees

Recently I was helping to onboard a new group of employees. We had won a new contract and needed to pull the new folks into the fold ASAP with no downtime or issues.

The “standard” HR practice would be to gather all of the employees in a single place, give them a speech, hand out paperwork, and wait for it to roll in. However, that’s not how I handled it.

Instead, we sat down with each individual employee. That meant the entire exercise took approximately 10 times as long; however, there were some conditions that I had examined that told me the one-on-one would be more beneficial across the board. Here’s where that intuition/awareness/whatever comes into play.

  • They were coming from a “big company” employer that didn’t treat them as individuals or as highly valuable.
  • In my one previous meeting with the group, there were a few people who felt their concerns were not addressed for one reason or another.
  • Our history had always been that of a high-touch HR function, and this was the first chance to prove it.
  • I knew that with contracts like these, the people were going to speak freely more often if it was a private conversation than if it was in a group.

In the end, that was definitely the right answer. Each person got to spend some individual quality time talking about their hopes, concerns, and other thoughts.

Developing your intuition muscle

This is one of those skills that is more difficult to develop. Some of us are just more aware of our surroundings, the considerations of others, etc. However, I believe it’s possible to learn to be more intuitive and aware of the things going on around you. Here are a few tips for making that a new focus:

  • Especially in situations like the one depicted above where there will be many “first impressions” all at once, take some time to consider what impression you’re giving. How you interact is how they will expect the rest of the company to interact as well.
  • In your day to day, think about how others will perceive and process what you have to say. Even if it doesn’t change what you say or how you say it, understanding how to predict the responses of others is critical for someone in this role.
  • Once you have started honing your intuition skills, start sharing the insights with other managers and staff. For example, when I learn about a new policy rolling out affecting specific employees, I let the manager know generally what to expect from some of the people who might not respond well to the changes. That helps them to prepare for the response as well as making them more likely to rely on that advice again in the future, especially if it prevents an employee relations headache!

What are your thoughts on this? I think intuition is a highly valued, yet relatively unknown, skill for HR pros to develop and maintain. Have you seen others value you for your intuition and insights? How did that play out? I’d love to hear your story. 

Research Power: Anonymous vs. Confidential Surveys

I like data. I like reviewing it, pulling out trends, and sharing insights. I also like when I get the opportunity to ask others what they like and get some anonymous feedback, because I believe that anonymity helps to improve the quality and quantity of responses.

Recently I was listening to a podcast, and the speaker mentioned offering a confidential survey, which he felt was more valuable than an anonymous one. I had to stop and consider the differences, and I realized there certainly may be times when offering confidential surveys can beat offering anonymous ones.

Types of surveys

  • Anonymous-Anonymous surveys collect information and aggregate it without leaving a “trail” to find the specific participant
  • Confidential-Confidential surveys collect information but tie the response back to a unique identifier for each participant. This allows a third party to follow up if need be on specific answers.

How they work and why they matter

Continue reading