We don't know what's next for business - but what we do know is how to help you be ready. This blog is all about anticipating the future and positioning you for success.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wish List for 2013

‘Tis the season for making lists and checking them twice, and I’m betting that one of those lists that you’ll be spending time on has to do with work and your wishes for making meaningful improvements. Am I right? Don’t we all want to make a fresh and improved start in January? Well, if you’re like me you’ll be setting goals for improving workplace productivity, relationships, and fun. Here are five tips on how to narrow down those wishes to the most important ones that will have the greatest positive impact.
  1. Identify what is no longer going to be something that you do. I think this is critical. Don’t keep spending time and energy on tasks, people, customers, reports, problems, or whatever it may be, that don’t make you happy or support getting your organization to its goals. Take the time to be clear about what you should be doing, as well as what you shouldn’t, before you go any further with your list making.
  2. Make this the year of the elephant. So often I see organizations tip-toe around issues, personalities, and/or problems that are obvious to everyone. No one wants to "rock the boat." But at the same time, isn’t that elephant sitting in on and disrupting every meeting, taking advantage of privileges, leading managers around by the nose, or stirring up one conflict after another? Isn’t the result of appeasing the elephant weighing down your organization’s morale, energy, leadership confidence and overall productivity? Utilizing a planned and focused organization development methodology to address and eliminate the elephant can be just the spark your organization needs to set 2013 on fire.
  3. Don’t take it all so seriously. I’m not advocating you relax the quality of your work or the commitment you have to your organization. What I am suggesting is that you wish for and find a way to balance personal time with time dedicated to hard work, 24/7 expectations, and an economy that appears it will remain anemic for the next 12 months or so. Somewhere in among all the things you’re doing you need to have fun. That can be a collective fun with workplace potlucks or planning time for personal breaks, or whatever you enjoy that can recharge you. If you’re looking for a fabulous book on the importance of play and creativity don’t miss reading Play, by Dr. Stuart Brown.
  4. Make learning a priority. Professional development is one of the key areas that has been cut during this recession. The sad thing about that is that we all need continuous improvement. It doesn’t matter if it’s people skills, leadership techniques, certifications, or staying up to speed on the latest technology impacting the way we work. In this global environment where the only thing we can count on is change, learning is important for sustaining a competitive advantage. In 2013, do what you can to open your organization up again to investing in the minds and spirits of your employees. You may find executive coaching is a great way to invest in development while having the least amount of disruption on productivity.
  5. Play the role of reporter. So much of our focus these days is on "ME." Take 2013 to move that focus to make it all about your colleagues, co-workers, customers, family and new acquaintances. Have an inquiring mind that wants to hear their stories, ideas, opinions and experiences. Learn to use your ears more than your mouth. Value the input and feedback from others and reinforce their value and contributions to the organization. Improving communication and collaboration in the workplace is important for creating and sustaining trust, as well as motivating risk-taking and innovation.
Creating your wish list based on these ideas will go a long way toward introducing and sustaining positive change in your organization, leading to success in 2013.

This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR, CEO and Sr. Organizational Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are energized about transforming human performance through the evolution of workplace culture. Contact EMI for more information about how we can assist your organization: www.evolutionmgt.com or 770.587.9032

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thanksgiving, A Special Holiday

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday connected with memories, traditions and schedules.

Did you know that Thanksgiving has historical roots that go all the way back to 1621, when a good harvest was celebrated by the Pilgrims in Plymouth Massachusetts? They wanted to "give thanks" not only for the bountiful crops that would carry them through the winter, but also for the assistance Squanto and the Native Americans gave them in learning how to survive in their new world.

With that beginning, Thanksgiving has continued to offer us a time to stop and give thanks in whatever way is meaningful. Thanksgiving has links to religious teachings, as well as a secular opportunity for renewal of the spirit through the act of being grateful.

Cultivate a New Habit

The MayoClinic recommends that we cultivate a focus on gratitude to not only reduce our stress levels, but to also bring about more personal happiness. It’s not difficult, but it takes a commitment to make the time. Here’s all you need to do: take the time to start and end each day by thinking and speaking thoughts of gratefulness. The Clinic staff reminds us that embracing gratitude is more than saying thank you. The conscious act needs to encompass the wonder and appreciation for someone or something with the thankfulness of having had the experience.

I’m fortunate- I grew up in a household where writing thank you notes was a must after every occasion, and I’m so glad that I learned that expression of sharing my gratitude. Not only does it make me feel good to be grateful for the kindness of friends and family, but I hope it also helps them appreciate the connection and thankfulness we have with each other. But being grateful goes far beyond the birthday and holiday gifts and hospitality we enjoy. It’s also appreciating the not-so-obvious gifts we receive every day through encounters with kind strangers, or the beautiful seasons that Mother Nature orchestrates, from the buds of spring to the unbelievable colors of fall. When’s the last time you took the time to enjoy the seasons or to be amazed by nature?

Every day we’re given the opportunity to start fresh. Why not use this week to start a new habit - expand the Thanksgiving routine of embracing gratitude into your daily routine and see what changes it brings to your life. According to Ellie Peterson, author of Meditative Movements, taking time to focus on being grateful about what is good in your life will increase positive thoughts and feelings and eliminate negative and depressing feelings of self-pity and resentment.

So What’s Next?
On Thursday, I’ll gather with friends and family, like so many of you, and we’ll share a glimpse of what we are grateful for. Hearing and being in the moment of what each person chooses to offer is such a gift.

Learning to be grateful for things in our personal life can wrap into being happy and grateful in our professional lives as well. There’s a lot to be said for the culture of collaboration and trust that can be influenced by personal commitments to being grateful for what we have, rather than resentful for what hasn’t come our way yet.

Even when the universe presents some tough challenges, we still have so many things to be thankful for, if we just look at the positive side of life rather than the negative. And, although it’s just as easy to look at the glass half full, we often get caught up in a first reaction of "I didn’t win." Dr. John DeMartini, author, doctor and philosopher offered this quote on the topic of gratitude, "Whatever we think about and thank about, we bring about."

I’m grateful for this opportunity to plant the seeds of daily gratitude in the garden of your mind. Together we can all make a difference by appreciating the many opportunities we have each day to give thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR, CEO and Sr. Organizational Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are energized about transforming human performance through the evolution of workplace culture. Contact EMI for more information about how we can assist your organization: www.evolutionmgt.com or 770.587.9032

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The White House, Congress, Your Organization, and Change

Exceptional leaders realize and are quick to take action when dysfunctional behaviors in their organizations set the stage for impending chaos and destruction. These leaders have learned to work with change, not ignore it.

Dysfunction can form on a variety of organizational platforms. Have you ever experienced negative consequences, missed opportunities, or a hostile work environment as a result of any of the following?
  • Broken relationships
  • Lack of trust
  • Lack of customer confidence
  • Inability to communicate
  • Silos curtailing the ability to unite
  • Ego maniacs, who will not listen or accept the ideas and opinions of others
  • Resistance to the changes a global, technically advanced society is driving
  • Fear of losing some level of power or authority
  • Inability to embrace a vision of "we’re in this together" rather than "it’s all about me"
Whether you work in the public or private sector, if you are responsible for reaching performance goals and are encountering resistance, be aware that you can harness power for achieving successful change by correctly planning and implementing change initiatives that involve and motivate employees and stakeholders to engage in adapting to the future.

The Dynamics of Human Behaviors

Nothing changes in an organization until the people involved understand the need for change. If performance doesn’t evolve to match expectations, a performance improvement plan might be helpful, or perhaps assigning an executive coach to work with a struggling employee might be a practical way to achieve transition. When we’re dealing with change and dysfunction in our political arenas, of course we always have the option to express our satisfaction with the pace of change through our right to vote.

Regardless of the sector you are working in, consider these points as you prepare to drive successful change in your organization:
  • Just by our nature, it’s important to assess and understand the readiness of people within the organization to embrace change. If they’re not ready, you can’t force it. However, before giving up on our employees or public servants, consider and plan for the impact of human dynamics of change. We live in a sophisticated and complicated global marketplace. Initial steps are often needed to help employees prepare for a transition. Before they can attempt to move forward individuals may need:
    • help in understanding the reason(s) why change has to happen.
    • new skills and abilities to engage in exploration of ideas and/or dialogues that aren’t all about them.
    • clarity of their role and responsibilities for effecting change in the organization.
    • a way to save face for what was said or done in the past, in order to move on.
    • to celebrate the achievements of the "old way of doing business" in order to accept the new, fast-paced, technology-changed ways of the future.
  • The pace of change will probably be different for each individual involved in a change effort. Pace is often determined by past change experiences, how rooted the employees are in the belief being changed, and their personal abilities to successfully manage their own change, as well as motivate and lead others to change.
  • Fear of the unknown is a common barrier to embracing change. As much as possible, help individuals understand what the future is going to look like and what role they will be playing in a "changed" world.
  • Frequent communications about change, the importance of change for survival, and the successes the organization is achieving – big and small – will be important for employees to hear and identify with. Repeat these messages through a variety of communication channels.
  • Providing training and a change model for successfully managing personal change can also be helpful in assisting with a road map of the behaviors required for successful change, and where those "change monsters" might be hidden. Consider sharing these resources:

So What’s Next?

We all know the world is going to continue to change. But, have we really considered what that requires of each and every one of us? There is no doubt about it. You hear people say it every day, "The only thing you can count on is change." So, it’s inevitable – we all need to build skills that support flexibility, resilience, collaboration and respect for diverse options, ideas, and styles.

Just as organizations need to improve relationships, communications and performance, so too does the White House and Congress. They’re going to have to learn to work together if we’re to move beyond the gridlock and dysfunctionality of today’s political climate. As a result of stakeholder expectations, businesses, as well as government agencies, are going to have to continue to look for ways to streamline processes, cut costs, integrate technology and train employees on the competencies required for the future.

Change has been following us like a shadow for a number of years. Many organizations have avoided it, but yet continue to catch a glimpse of it lurking along the sidelines. A few have successfully navigated the change process and have instilled a culture of continuous improvement in their organizations. But the sad message is that the majority of organizations that have attempted to change have failed. I’m sure you’re aware of this, but here’s the disappointing fact - over 70% of organizational change initiatives fail, primarily because of:
  • lack of planning.
  • lack of employee preparedness and participation.
  • lack of leadership buy-in for the long haul.
Getting serious about successful change requires:
  • commitment at the top to the change message, required resources and a willingness to remain committed over a period of time that relates to the complexity of the organizational changes being introduced.
  • abilities to motivate managers to check their egos at the door and be open to new ideas and approaches.
  • assessment and employee participation to determine readiness and what’s required for successful change.
  • adequate planning and communications about short- and long-term goals and objectives.
  • a common language about change, so everyone is speaking and understanding the same message.
  • celebration of big and small successes, to continue to motivate stakeholders and reinforce the benefits of the vision of the future.
  • support and guidance by professionals experienced in a variety of change management methodologies, tools, and practices that allow change to be experienced in conjunction with the cultural and business advances the organization is seeking, and not as a stand-alone change management training exercise.

The future holds change for all of us. That’s a very good reason to embrace it, aid your organization in understanding it, and building the appropriate team with the skill sets to work with change, rather than against it.


This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR, CEO and Sr. Organizational Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are energized about transforming human performance through the evolution of workplace culture. Contact EMI for more information about how we can assist your organization: www.evolutionmgt.com or 770.587.9032.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Astronauts, Dinosaurs and Zombies: Halloween or your Workplace?

Ghouls, goblins and things that go bump in the night! Enjoy - it’s the season.

Halloween has grown into a major holiday. The American Federation of Retailers estimates that 7 out of 10 Americans will get into the haunting celebration – spending about $80 on festivities including food, costumes and decorations. Many offices now offer celebrations in addition to the parties and trick-or-treating events that go on after hours.

The idea of the alter egos individuals assume during the celebration started me thinking about how we classify employees when the costumes are packed away for next year. How would you rate your employees when it comes to these categories: 

Understanding these work style preferences can aid in the design of appropriate engagement strategies.

Astronauts – creative, energized and self-motivated individuals who are invigorated by the challenges of change, technology, and new opportunities.

Dinosaurs – individuals who are significantly connected to the past. They usually can be spotted by the phrases, "We already tried that and it didn’t work" or, "We never did it that way before." They’re seriously reluctant to accept change and often create drama when change is presented.

Zombies – totally disengaged employees. They report to work physically, but aren’t engaged emotionally or mentally. Definitely your "walking dead."

The best time to begin engaging employees is through the hiring process. Integrate information about the organization’s mission, vision, values and goals into sourcing and recruiting documents and processes. Ensure that your HR staff and managers participating in the hiring process also understand the importance of incorporating this type of information into their interviewing and selection practices.
The on-boarding process is then an extension of the type of culture, performance expectations and engagement the organization is expecting from its employees. On-boarding, or what we used to call orientation, is a planned, progressive indoctrination of the organization’s expectations for employee involvement and practices for empowering and starting each employee on the right foot. The process is usually planned to cover information that should be understood and integrated into day-to-day performance by the employee after 30, 60 and 90 days.

Partnering a mentoring process with on-boarding can also be extremely successful, as the employee now has another avenue to for getting information and checking in on assumptions, perceptions, etc.

If you’re not familiar with a good frame work for on-boarding, check out Michael Watkins' book, The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels.

The following tips can also help to motivate and excite new employees, as well as those established in the organization:
  • Share the enthusiasm and energy of the owner, leader, management team, etc. Communication about passion for the work the organization is doing can be very contagious. Celebrate and visibly acknowledge the events, outcomes, deliverables, and results the organization is proud of.
  • Invite employees to be involved in what’s going on in the organization. Employees are more likely to be engaged if they believe the organization values their insights, opinions and ideas. Organizations get into trouble with "Zombies" when employees feel neglected and unappreciated.
  • One solid way to keep employees motivated is to make sure they know how much customers and stakeholders appreciate them. Make sure that messages regarding customer appreciation are shared with the employees who deserve it, as well as their counterparts. Celebrate the compliments and help to remind employees of the impact of their work.
  • Link work expectations with performance management. Employees need to see how their work aligns and supports the overall mission of the organization in order to become personally invested. Employees that recognize their value are more likely to be enthusiastic, creative and willing to go the extra mile without being asked.

So What’s Next?

Implementing a successful employee engagement process can greatly reduce turnover and improve performance results. Research indicates turnover costs can be estimated up to 200% of an employee’s salary. Once you find the right talent, and you’ve invested in the training of that employee, the wisest next step is to engage and retain them. However, not all employees are going to be Astronauts.

The performance management system also needs to support the training and development of Dinosaurs who are afraid to step into the 21st century and engage change, technology and flexible work styles. No organization today can afford the drag of employees who are not motivated and engaged about the future. Yes, we need to honor the past and the success that old practices brought to the organization, but at the same time, we need to have a mentality of forward thinking that provides the competitive edge to compete in the global economy.

Taking care of the Zombies. Organizations that spot Zombies in meetings, cubicles, or strolling down the hall on any day other than Halloween need to take action. Addressing Zombie attitudes and behaviors needs to be a priority and can easily be integrated with a good performance management system.

Organizations need to be clear when it comes to performance expectations, including behavioral characteristics. Employees who do not exhibit the expected behaviors and/or performance levels need to be counseled, and/or provided with assistance if it’s determined they need some additional training in order to be successful. They also need to be put on notice after an appropriate time goes by without expected results, that unless performance improves the organization may have to take action, as it appears the requirements of the position are not a fit with what the employee has to offer.

That’s tough medicine, and a diagnosis managers often shy away from. But every employee needs to make contributions for the success of the organization. No organization today can afford to have a "part-time" effort being put forth from a "full-time" position. If there’s a mismatch of requirements and talent, deal with it and move on, the sooner the better.

Halloween is a one day occasion. I hope you were able to enjoy the festivities - without allowing Zombies to invade your organization.

This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR, CEO and Sr. Organizational Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are energized about transforming human performance through the evolution of workplace culture. Contact EMI for more information about how we can assist your organization: www.evolutionmgt.com; 770.587.9032

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What do Sex, Religion and Politics Have in Common?

If you’ve been working for any length of time, you should know the answer to this question. In order to maintain a civil work environment with minimal stresses on relationships, it’s best to keep workplace conversations about sex, religion and politics to a minimum.

But here we are, just a few weeks from a major election - what should employers and employees be aware of in order to avoid conflict, lawsuits, loss of customers and maybe even employee turnover?

First, as an employer:
  • Be clear with policies that address solicitation, distribution of materials and harassment. Employees should understand expectations for what is deemed appropriate behavior in the workplace.
  • Be transparent with your staff about why politics should be addressed outside the office. Focus on productivity, customer relationships, trust, solid team relationships as all-important reasons for not falling into the trappings of verbal and non-verbal politics in the workplace.
  • A good practice is to encourage employees to be active in their communities, including political. Policies should advise employees to work within the constraints of laws when it comes to their volunteer work and political contributions. Further, employees should be inspired to participate and support the community issues and candidates of their choice, during non-work hours.
  • Be aware of the awkward position an employee is placed in when a manager invites them to a fundraiser or a speech. How are they supposed to say "no" without looking bad? Don’t go there. Allow employees to make their own decisions about where to spend their time and money.
  • Be considerate of the "brand" your organization is promoting and respect the boundary when it comes to mixing business with politics. Public announcements endorsing a candidate or an issue could result in offending customers. It isn’t worth the risk.
  • Encourage managers to appropriately address any political buzz they become aware of in the office. Allowing office conversations to start could lead to escalations, as well as confusion about what is and is not appropriate. Remember, passionate displays by employees for one candidate vs. another can inflict serious and unnecessary damage to workplace relationships and if viewed as a hostile work environment, could result in substantial financial penalties.
  • Promote an environment where employees are comfortable, positive and productive. Don’t let politics interfere with work, relationships or trust.

Employees also have a responsibility for properly managing politics in the office:

  • Leave the buttons and flyers at home. Non-verbal messages and symbols can be just as offensive as verbal remarks. Although not much can be done about bumper stickers, be aware they do send a message.
  • Be respectful of the practice that politics don’t mix well with work, and refrain from any enthusiastic expressions about campaign issues, personalities, or impact on work practices, regulations, etc. Be aware political talk can be viewed as offensive to co-workers, as well as customers, causing the situation to be experienced as a hostile work environment.
  • Social media has blurred the lines between personal and professional lives. Be careful in your postings to demonstrate respect for those friends, family members and work colleagues who might be "following" you. Remember, no matter what happens on the scene of national politics you are still going to have to interact and work with these individuals after the election. Don’t post anything that could negatively impact your relationships.
  • If you do have a work colleague that agrees with your point of view and is someone you believe you can comfortably speak with, hold those conversations for after work. You don’t want to make others, who might overhead you, uncomfortable.
  • It you stumble into a conversation where it becomes obvious you have a difference of opinion, take the high road and agree to disagree. Neither one of you is likely to persuade the other to change his or her mind, so just let it go.
  • Think twice before sending or forwarding an email that contains a political message or bias. If it isn’t work-related, don’t send it.
It’s wonderful to have a love of country that brings out passions for getting involved with the political process. However, let’s just help each other get through the next few weeks appreciating the freedom we have to agree to disagree in a respectful manner and use our passion, after hours, to support our causes.

This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR, CEO and Organizational Effectiveness Consultant with Evolution Management, Inc. Debbie and her team are energized about providing the guidance and support organizations need to be efficient and productive. If your organization is in need of change management, human resource management, or training consulting services, visit our website at www.evolutionmgt.com or contact Debbie for more information: debbie@evolutionmgt.com or 770.587.9032. EMI is a certified SBA 8(a) business and also holds certification as a woman-owned, small business through NWBENC.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What Do You Do?

Think about the last networking or social event you attended. What was the most common question you were asked? That’s right - "What do you do?" A good ice breaker.

We all like to talk about how we spend our work time; well, at least most of us do. I happen to love what I do: Organization Development (OD) consulting. It’s interesting; it’s multidisciplined; and although there are certainly similarities across human behaviors and organizational processes, each organization is unique.

I’m often asked what OD is. My answer can be short: "OD is an approach to bring about organizational change." Or, depending on who’s asking and how interested they are, I might go on to say: "Usually I’m engaged when leaders realize they must change in order to adapt to some type of change in their environment: changing market conditions, changing expectations of customers, changes in funding capabilities."

Why Organizations Need OD

You may not be thinking about Kurt Lewin while working on organizational change, but the father of modern social psychology is also widely recognized as the founding father of OD. Through Lewin’s research we learned the importance of group dynamics and action research, two of the key foundations for organization development work.

It was Lewin who wrote, "If individuals are active in decisions affecting them, they are more likely to adopt new ways. Change proceeds in a spiral of steps, each of which is composed of a circle of planning, action and fact-finding about the result of action."

My experience demonstrates that leaders may recognize that their organizations must change, but few have more data beyond their own perceptions about what’s wrong. And very few know how to go about planning and implementing change. There are some that attempt change alone, but their attempts at forced change are overwhelming disasters, ending with employees feeling disillusioned and wondering, "Who’s steering the ship?"

Organizations sincere about wanting to plan and initiate successful change need organization development knowledge and experience provided by an internal or external OD consultant. The OD consultant’s role is not to examine, diagnose, prescribe and fix the organization. Instead, the consultant serves as the catalyst for guiding and facilitating processes designed to help the organization look at itself, understand its challenges, and create actions to close the gaps between who or where they are, and who or where they want to be.

The OD consultant is capable of calling on techniques, theories and methodologies from a variety of disciplines; i.e., behavioral sciences, anthropology, sociology, thinking and organizational learning, mind maps, body mind synchronicity, decision making, and coaching to list a few. This is not a consulting field where "one size fits all." What works for one organization will probably not lend itself to another organization. The consultant will take the time to listen and explore with the organization their history, culture, practices, expectations and change objectives before suggesting options for how to move forward in planning for change.

Organizations have been utilizing OD support since the ‘50s, and they still need it. The OD interventions designed for the organization will be unique to its people, considering a diversity of ideas, perceptions, readiness, beliefs, expectations, etc. As Warren Bennis wrote in 1969, "Change is the biggest story in the world today, and we are not coping with it adequately…." I think that statement is timeless. Change continues to challenge us. It’s demanding, elusive, and yet ever present and impactful. Why do organizations need OD? In order to survive.

How Does The OD Process Work?

When I talk about OD, I often point to the benefits that can be achieved by any organization: private sector businesses as well as government agencies. Some of the benefits include expanding organizational capabilities to:
  • improve interpersonal and team processes and relationships.
  • create a pathway for more effective communications.
  • enhance the organization’s capabilities to cope with challenges.
  • improve leadership and managerial competencies and abilities.
  • deal with conflict in a healthy manner.
  • cultivate an atmosphere of trust and collaboration.
  • structure the organization to improve efficiencies and performance.

The OD consultant starts with the end in mind; i.e., a process to answer the question, "What does the organization want to achieve?" Based on the answer the organization agrees to, the consultant will work with the various stakeholders to develop a Change Plan or "travel guide." Think of the guide as a map detailing how to successfully move from Point A to Point M using collaborative and facilitated processes along the way.

Organization change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that demands sufficient acknowledgement of elements such as: time, patience, expertise, data gathering, analysis, planning, resources, collaboration, co-creation, trust, confidentiality, conflict, fence-mending, coaching, facilitation, exploration, intuition, decision making, risk-taking, stakeholder participation, open communications and let’s not forget coaching or training along the way. Yes, I love what I do!

So What’s Next?

Every organization today is faced with issues of change: Budgets are being cut and people are retiring and leaving with knowledge and experiences that haven’t been documented. Workplaces are dealing with management styles that haven’t kept up with the expectations of the current workforce. Multiple generations working together are clashing over expectations and preferences, workplace cultures aren’t adapting quickly enough resulting in a lack of productive ways to work together. Technology is changing faster than organizations can assimilate to, and the list continues to grow.

If your organization is considering a change initiative, the first step is to ensure the organization has the leadership bold and secure enough to take a good look in the mirror. Next identify internal or external OD resources to assist. This point can be dicey, because the OD consultant needs to be neutral. If the OD consultant is too close to management, it may be difficult for employees to be candid and hopeful that positive change can occur.

The worst thing I’ve seen organizations do is recognize there is a problem, but sit back and hope that it resolves itself. I’m not saying it never happens, but the odds of the problem resolving itself are slim. What usually happens is the culture begins to accept the dysfunction that the problem is causing and then begins to fester, resulting in other dysfunctional reactions and solutions filling in the void that management is not addressing.

If it’s time to address change in your organization, find the right resources to help develop your guide to successful change. If EMI can assist you, we’d appreciate your consideration. Make change happen so that the next time someone asks you or your employees, "What do you do?" the answer can be, "I work for the best organization on the planet!" Wouldn’t that be cool?

As always, I welcome your comments to my posting. If you found this article interesting please pass it along to others in your network who can also benefit from it. Have a great week.

This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR and President of Evolution Management, Inc. an SBA 8(a) certified firm. For 18 years, EMI’s team of experienced HR and change management consultants have been partnering with organizations interested in improving their workplace environments, as well as their organizational performance. We’d appreciate an opportunity to work with you. Contact us at 770.587.9032 or visit our website at www.evolutionmgt.com.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Taking Care of Business or a Boondoggle?

Why is it when times get tough the first thing most business leaders look at cutting are those activities that help with employee engagement, retention, customer service and, in a not-so-indirect way, profitability?

Yes, I know we’ve all been focused on cost cutting and reducing overhead however we can. But, have you noticed what those cost cutting measures have resulted in for some organizations? In my experience consulting with businesses and government agencies focused on improving their workplaces, I see:
  • Poor morale, resulting from employees not feeling valued.
  • Disengagement. Very often the workforce has been downsized, while the workload remains the same. Employees feel abused and taken advantage of. Their response: only do the minimum of what’s expected.
  • Anger and frustration. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workplace violence — including assaults and suicides — accounted for 18% of all work-related fatal occupational injuries in 2010.
  • Decline in customer service. Employees mirror the way they are treated by their managers as they engage with customers.
  • Theft and fraud. It can be stealing supplies, money or padding the time sheet – if employees don’t perceive they are being treated fairly, they will take advantage of opportunities to "make up" for what they assume they are missing.

Strategies for Engagement

I know, the word "engagement" is way overused these days, but you get my point. Good leaders know the benefit of keeping employees happy. They want their employees to look forward to getting up and coming to work. They see the benefits of employees invested in doing a great job and collaborating with other team members to ensure a quality job is completed on time and within budget. They hear the results – fewer customer complaints – as well as see revenues growing as customers come to know they can count on the organization’s reputation for quality service, products and care.

Organizations in both the government and private sectors seem to be afraid to spend money on keeping workers happy and engaged. But at what price? Yes, there are a few organizations where unexplainable decisions have been made as far as recognition and training. But should everyone suffer because of a few? What happened to common sense? A few hundred dollars - or even a few thousand dollars - a year invested in an organization’s top assets shouldn’t be perceived as a boondoggle, it should be applauded as a responsible way to take care of business.

According to an article written by Leslie Caccameseon for Great Place to Work there are five ways to make employees happy – and therefore improve your workplace performance. I’ve taken the liberty to elaborate on her points.

  1. Give them a sense of meaning. Help employees understand how their contributions fit with the mission and goals of the organization, as well as how the organization benefits the community and world at large.
  2. Provide opportunities for growth. Research indicates that employees are happier when they are learning – and we all know how important continuous learning is. Training and development, executive coaching, on-line webinars, shared libraries, job rotations, job sharing, all go a long way to boost morale and engage employees in understanding and operating the business of the organization. It may seem counterintuitive, but investing in the employability of employees is an excellent strategy for improving retention, knowledge management, morale and performance.
  3. Insist on providing freedom to balance work and personal commitments. Think of employees as people, not positions. There is so much that people are dealing with today. Don’t forget in addition to their work duties, employees may also be dealing with issues such as young children, aging parents, family members without jobs, daycare issues, medical issues, and the list goes on. People need to be able to attend to their lives, as well as their work, in a way that makes sense to both the employee and the employer.
  4. Demonstrate your interest in hearing their ideas. Employees are more content with their jobs when they feel that management sincerely is interested in their suggestions. Ask for opinions and ideas and work at keeping communications open.
  5. Be true to Maslow. We all know employees can’t focus on the bigger issues until they’ve achieved security regarding their basic needs. Demonstrate how your firm values people by valuing fair wages, benefits and bonuses that represent a fair share of the organizations’ rewards. Adopt an attitude of "we’re all in this together" for the good times as well as those that are challenging.
So What’s Next?

In her new book, Make More Money by Making Your Employees Happy, Dr. Noelle Nelson cites research that indicates "companies that effectively appreciate employee value enjoy a return on equity and assets more than triple that experienced by firms that don’t." A marketplace where 90% of employees indicate they are willing to move to a new organization demonstrates the significance of the need to connect with employees on the things that are important to their workplace satisfaction. Turnover is never cheap and can have such a significant impact on productivity.

From the Human Resources perception, it’s not all about wages and bonuses. Yes, everyone wants to be compensated fairly, but what we hear time and time again through employee surveys is that they also want to be included, consulted, appreciated, recognized and developed. There are many actions employers can take to engage with employees that are inexpensive, yet very beneficial for opening up communications and relationships.

I agree that no organization, government or private sector, should be holding retreats and meetings costing millions of dollars. However, it’s not the events we should be scrutinizing – they’re important. Employees need to connect with others to build teams. They need to be recognized for past contributions and receive training on new skills and technologies that they’ll be working with in the future. Meetings, retreats, or trainings organized for the purpose of developing your number one asset – people - should continue to be authorized. It’s the manner in which the event is planned and funded that should be receiving the extra review to ensure its within acceptable limits for employee development.

We all want the individuals we interact with, whether at a restaurant, our insurance company, our children’s’ school, the airport, hospital, mall, or at a government agency to be courteous, knowledgeable, helpful and competent. In order to ensure those good connections, workers need to be included in the commitment to taking care of business – the business of people management.

Please feel free to comment on this topic or to share this article with others. Thank you for taking the time to consider this information. Have a wonderful day.


This article was written by Deborah A. King, SPHR and President of Evolution Management, Inc. an SBA 8(a) certified firm. For 18 years, EMI’s team of experienced HR and change management consultants have been partnering with organizations interested in improving their workplace environments, as well as their organizational performance. We’d appreciate an opportunity to work with you. Contact us at 770.587.9032 or visit our website at www.evolutionmgt.com.