Five Keys for Engagement

Here are five keys for improving employee engagement, based on research into what effective leaders actually do:

=> Really know the people who work for you – understand their experiences, motivations and interests

=> Have an interest in helping people learn to do new things in new and better ways (this isn’t about formal training, it’s about a coaching mindset and encouragement)

=> Inspire people; not through slogans and posters on the wall, but in practical ways that provide a sense of purpose (e.g. customer interaction and feedback)

=> Involve people through building line of sight and business literacy, and by providing access to fresh information (transparency)

=> Recognising people’s contribution: a “Sincere Well-Informed Timely Thank You” is a powerful thing (but many managers struggle with this).

The list comes from the book “Closing the Engagement Gap: How Great Companies Unlock Employee Potential for Superior Results” by Julie Gebauer and Don Lowman.

When I do manager training, it’s depressing to see how many team leaders fall down on “Know people”. I start easy, like, “What are the names of people in your team?” You’d be amazed. This step is really about empathy – or maybe simply caring a bit.

The best managers in my experience, do all these five things and more. What would you add to the list?

#EmployeeEngagement #Leadership #EmployeeExperience #Empathy #HR #PeopleManagement #EmotionalIntelligence #Trust #BadManagersSuck #IMadeAnInfographic

Types of Conversation

How can you understand different kinds of conversation in the workplace? => This is still a useful framework for thinking about types of employee voice. It’s based on Bill Gorden’s two-spectrum model.

** To what extent is voice is active? (e.g., given openly)

** And is it constructive? (e.g., an exchange)

You can identify 4 quadrants:

=> Active constructive, e.g., “principled dissent” and “dialogue”

=> Passive constructive, e.g., “attentive listening” and “quiet non-verbal support”

=> Passive destructive, e.g., “I just work here”-type responses and “calculative silence”

=> Active destructive, e.g., “duplicity” and “badmouthing”

The model is from 1988 and you can see the links to early work on psychological safety.

You can read more here:

What can you do with this framework? Well, there is also a lot written about “Active Constructive Responding” in coaching, for example, which I associate with the work of Shelly Gable (and others).

#EmployeeExperience #EmployeeEngagement #EmployeeVoice

#Leadership #Conversation #BehavioralScience #PsychologicalSafety

Head, Heart, and Hands

This is a classic approach to Employee Engagement – that it’s about the “head, heart, and hands”.

The roots for this kind of approach lie in work on organizational commitment (link below).

If you measure engagement like this, you can segment the workforce in different ways, e.g.:

– People who “get it” but are still only “loosely connected”

– People who are “emotionally invested” but “not aligned to your vision”

– People who are “going the extra mile” but maybe in a way that’s “ineffective”

– People who are high on all 3 elements and are real “champions”

– People who are low on all 3 elements and you perhaps hope are thinking about moving on

– etc.

In analytics terms:

=> You can do clustering to identify prominent employee “types” and then identify hot spots

=> You can examine the key drivers of engagement for different groups

=> You can look at the link to retention (and performance)

=> You can build personas by brining in other data

=> You can make connections to your DE&I strategy.

If you’re interested, one of the classic papers on org. commitment is by John Meyer and Natalie Allen from 1991: “A three-component conceptualization of organisational commitment.” Human Resource Management Review 1: 61–89.

William Kahn, who is usually credited with providing the first formal definition of engagement said that “in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally.”

The Utrecht Work Engagement Scale, which has been widely deployed in academic circles, also measures three aspects: vigor, dedication, and absorption.

All the best things come in threes!

#EmployeeEngagement #OrganizationalCulture #EmployeeExperience

#Leadership #BehavioralScience #PeopleAnalytics #HR

Conscious Accountability

Conscious accountability is about “expanding awareness to create deliberate intentions, take informed actions, and be responsible for our impact.”

The idea comes froom the book by David Tate, Marianne Pantalon and Daryn David.

Conscious accountability depends on:

– Creating clarity

– Opening up engagement

– Nailing it (do what you say)

– Noticing

– Exchanging feedback

– Claiming it (taking ownership for failures as well as successes)

– Trying again

They touch on this in the article (there is more about it in the book): By considering two outcomes, Relationships and Results, they identify four personas:

1. Harmonizers

2. Hard Drivers

3. Neutralizers

4. Conscious Performers

“Conscious performers are the people who can balance and include a focus on both task performance and relationship quality.” What do these people do:

=> They notice a team’s energy

=> They uncover root causes when there are challenges

=> They appreciate divergent opinions

It’s an interesting read and building accountability is something that I know lots of organisations struggle with. I like the focus here on energy and inclusion.

#Leadership #Trust #PsychologicalSafety #BehavioralScience

Reflecting Edgar Schein’s ideas

This is a powerful review by MIT of five of Edgar Schein’s most enduring ideas:

1. Coercive persuasion

2. Career anchors and dynamics

3. Organization culture

4. Humble inquiry and leadership

5. Organization change

His work on culture is still relevant as people continue to zero-in on visible artifacts & symbols, rather than explore underlying assumptions. He also examined the way culture, leadership, and organizational transformation intersect.

Another major contribution (certainly in my area) is in process consulting, where he called out the importance of shifting from a “doctor-patient” relationship to one based on active and collaborative enquiry and group problem solving.

What an amazing body of work.

Here’s the link: “5 enduring management ideas from MIT Sloan’s Edgar Schein | MIT Sloan”

#Leadership #OrganizationalCulture #EmployeeExperience

The Trust Triangle

This is one of my favourite frameworks for talking about trust at work (by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss). It comes from their 2020 HBR article “Begin with Trust”. They ask:

=> Which of these points is your Anchor?

=> Which is your Wobble?

=> Are you building a stable “Trust Architecture”?

In their book “Unleashed” they define leadership as: “Empowering other people as a result of your presence, and making sure that impact continues into your absence.”

=> Presence is about e.g., empathy and connection.

=> Absence is about e.g., culture and communities.

I would put nearly all the work I do on improving employee experience under the banner of “building trust” and specifically “closing the trust gap” that exists in most organisations and that’s such a drag on performance.

Here’s the link to the HBR article:

PS One thing that’s interesting in the article is that Uber is the case study. If you’ve read the book “Super Pumped” (which I thought was a great read) it’s useful to compare the two.

#EmployeeExperience #Trust #Leadership #EmployeeEngagement

Image source: HBR

Employee Wellbeing

This got a lot of attention when it first came out, but I’ve enjoyed looking at it again. It’s the report from the Office of the Surgeon General in the US on the condition of mental health and wellbeing at work. It talks about making workplaces “engines of wellbeing” through, e.g.:

Protection from Harm:

  • Prioritizing physical and psychological safety
  • Enabling rest and supporting mental health

Work-Life Harmony:

  • Providing more autonomy over how work is done
  • Flexible and predictable schedules

Mattering at Work:

  • Involving people in workplace decisions
  • Providing purpose and meaning in jobs

Connection & Community:

  • Ensuring inclusion and belonging
  • Fostering collaboration and teamwork

Opportunity for Growth:

  • Building pathways for career advancement
  • Ensuring relevant, reciprocal feedback

“Harmony” is an interesting choice of word.

There’s lots of new & interesting research on the importance of psychological safety.

I wrote in a previous post about really liking this focus on “mattering”.

Employees’ sense of connection is falling and leaders are worried about it.

Growth is an area that our own research shows is really key for a high-performance EX.

It’s a thought-provoking list!

#WellBeing #PsychologicalSafety #EmployeeExperience #OrganizationalCulture

Employee Voice and Silence

Employee voice & silence have become topics of serious interest during a period of disruption and upheaval, with the rise of social media, and as leaders realise the importance of psychological safety and the need for open innovation.

– How do individual characteristics, job-related attitudes and emotions, leadership styles and behaviors, and relational and contextual factors all affect someone’s willingness to speak up and express their opinion or make a suggestion?

In this great review, Elizabeth Morrison looks at the progress that has been made in understanding the antecedents and consequences of voice & silence since publishing her first (field-shaping) review in 2014:

– One area where there has been a lot of work is studies showing how team-level voice improves innovation and unit performance.

#Leadership #EmployeeVoice #Trust #EmployeeExperience #PeopleAnalytics

The best newsletters to follow on Substack and LI

If you’re like me, you probably get invited to follow a lot of newsletters. It can be a bit overwhelming. So I thought I’d share a list of those that I (very happily) follow:

– If you’re interested in psychological safety, then Tom Geraghty’s newsletter has the mission of “making the world of work a better, safer, more inclusive and equitable place.”

– Andrew Marritt’s “Empirical HR” is a great read for its combination of insight, wit and the occasional dive into extreme detail.

– “From Data to Action” is the LI newsletter of Serena H. Huang, Ph.D. It has a practical focus on turning data into action through great people analytics.

– “The Element of Inclusion” by Dr. Jonathan Ashong-Lamptey has a focus on supporting leaders through evidence based inclusion. His book summaries save me a lot of reading!

– Anyone following my posts will know that trust is a central theme. Hence, I find “Rethink” with Rachel Botsman a great read. The weekly newsletter is free and the aim is to share “an idea that will make you think differently”.

– Abhishek Mittal has a great newsletter called “HRHeadStart”. He says it’s aimed at “young HR professionals and students” but I learn an awful lot from it too.

– Rita McGrath, author and professor at Columbia Business School, uses her “Thought Sparks” newsletter on Substack to share her ideas on strategy, innovation, and growth.

– “Make Work Better” by Bruce Daisley combines humour and insight and reflects his mission “to help us enjoy work again “.

– “Directionally Correct” is the Substack of Cole Napper & Scott Hines. It’s full of stories and advice on how to get value from people analytics.

– David Green’s “Data Driven HR Monthly” is the most comprehensive collection of people analytics resources on the planet, carefully selected and curated every month.

– “Frontline BeSci” from Colin Strong draws on social science and philosophy to consider how we can grapple some of the profound challenges facing us today.

– Here’s a new one: “Weekly People Research” from the prolific Nicolas Behbahani summarises lots of complicated new research into people and performance.

** Of course, I also have my own newsletter!! (“EX Leadership”). It’s quarterly and I share the very best 3-4 EX articles I’ve come across in the last few months. You can sign up here:

I hope you enjoy some / all of these. Which others would be on your list? I’d love to know what I’m missing out on!

#Leadership #Trust #PsychologicalSafety #PeopleAnalytics #Hybrid #BehavioralScience #HR #EmployeeEngagement #EmployeeExperience #Trust

EX Leadership Newsletter – July 2023

Design thinking – Leadership love – Belonging – Get Stuff Done

It’s hot out there.** So I recommend grabbing a cool drink and reading these articles while you sit in the shade; they’re the ones I’ve enjoyed the most over the last few months and that have got me thinking. I hope you find them useful too.

** With apologies to friends in the UK where the weather is actually pretty rubbish.

First up is this great piece on design thinking by Hal Wuertz. I really like the way she combines design thinking with scientific approaches to solving problems.

“It’s Time to Re-Design How We Think”:

Then there’s this interview with Gianpiero Petriglieri on humanising leadership. He talks about leadership as a love story – one that moves you and that moves others too.

“The Need To Humanise Leadership & Work”:

Belonging is a topic I’m hearing more and more about (and I’m enjoying reading Geoff Cohen’s book on the science of belonging). I missed this article by Marissa Afton when it first came out, but I really like its focus on “the four pillars of belonging” all of which resonate with me.

“How to Cultivate Belonging at Work”:

Kim Scott is one of my favourite writers and as is her style this piece is direct and to-the-point as she discusses her “Get Stuff Done (GSD) Wheel”.

“Creating a Culture of Listening”:

That’s it. The promise I made when I started this newsletter was that I would only share 3-4 great articles each time and I’ve noticed myself struggling to keep to that limit recently. Not this time though!