How can you measure sense of purpose?

Sense of purpose is a key aspect of employee experience, so how can you measure it?

This paper by Anna Jasinenko and Josephina Steuber tries to answer that question by reviewing the literature and constructing a measure of “perceived organizational purpose”.

Their measure (shown here) includes four factors:

=> Contribution

=> Authenticity

=> Guidance

=> Inspiration

They also look at the link with:

=> Meaningful work

=> Wellbeing

=> What they call “work-life conflict”

=> Job satisfaction

Here’s the link to the paper:

I like this advice: “]Leaders] should not only ask themselves how their organization can contribute positively to society but also whether this potential contribution can be authentically incorporated into daily actions.”

in our High-Peformance Employee Experience framework Purpose is one of four core dimensions (along with People, Work, and Total Rewards) and we have a similar approach to measuring how it is perceived by employees.

I love measurement challenges like this – taking a big idea and grounding it so you can explore and unpack it.

#Leadership #Purpose #EmployeeExperience #EX #EmployeeEngagement #PeopleAnalytics #Wellbeing #MeaningfulWork #BehavioralScience #FutureOfWork

How does trust grow?

When I started my career in consulting, I was handed a well-thumbed copy of the book “The Trusted Advisor” and recommended to read it. Which I proceeded to do, and then in time handed it on to the next person. That copy became more and more worn over the years. The book is full of great advice. Here’s one thing I’ve always remembered: the trust equation.

Here are some of the book’s insights on trust:

=> It grows rather than just appears

=> Is both rational and emotional

=> Presumes a two-way relationship

=> Is intrinsically about perceived risk

=> Is personal

Another section in the book that I’ve always likes deals with “mindsets”:

=> The ability to focus on the other person

=> Self confidence

=> Curiosity

=> Inclusivity

This kind of advice is more applicable than ever.

Maister, David H., Robert Galford, and Charles Green. 2001. “The Trusted Advisor.” Simon & Schuster.

#Leadership #Trust #EmployeeEngagement #ProfessionalServices

#Mindsets #BusinessManagement #Consulting #Motivation

Emotions and Performance

How can you understand emotions in the workplace, and the link to performance?

This is a hot topic: Companies are doing more ongoing sensing, using new technologies to track sentiment, in part because there’s a growing concern over wellbeing & anxiety, plus there is an awful lot of change happening, which always stirs up emotions.

This multi-level model of emotions in organisations was developed by Neal Mashkanasy and Ronald Humphrey.

What does it tell you? (Apart from things are complicated):

– Senior leaders need to understand that employees’ attitudes and behaviors are partly the result of an accumulation of affective events (shown here in Level 1)

– In this framework, level 2 highlights the importance of individual variability in personality and emotional intelligence

– Level 3 covers the role of emotions in interpersonal relationships, e.g., trust

– In group situations managers need to understand how the transmission of emotions impacts teamwork (Level 4)

– At level 5, the focus may fall on “emotional climate” and the impact on organisational performance.

It’s a useful picture to keep in mind when you come across simple displays of “emotions at work”.

There’s a lot to unpack, including effects across levels.

You can find the paper here:

It’s a fun read as the authors talk about leaders as “mood managers” and the potential damage caused by “emotional contagion”.

#Leadership #EmotionalIntelligence #OrganisationalCulture #PeopleAnalytics #BehavioralScience #Teamwork #HighPerformance

High performance requires a combination of discipline AND entrepreneurship

I’ve always liked this picture, which comes from Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great”. It’s something that we also see in our research into EX leadership. This combination is difficult to get right, but it is key for great performance, not just at an organisational level, but at a team level too. Of course, navigating the “tension” here depends on trust and psychological safety.

Jim Collins talks about the importance of:

=> Hiring and developing self-disciplined people (so leaders can “manage the system” rather than individuals).

=> Disciplined thought, as in: “Confronting the brutal facts of reality, while retaining faith that you can create a path to success.”

=> Disciplined action (the ability to focus on the most critical things). In my experience, many organsiations fall down here with too many priorities and too much complicatedness.

And he highlights the need to build a culture around “the idea of freedom and responsibility within a framework”.

Where would you put your own team or organisation in a matrix like this?

#Leadership #OrganizationalCulture #EmployeeExperience #Creativity

#BehavioralScience #Trust #PsychologicalSafety #Innovation


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

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

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