Employee Engagement Marathon – Monday Recap
By David Bowles @SHRM10 Blog Squad
I decided to go for it today, no less than three engagement seminars, one from a Wal-Mart HR Manager, one from a seasoned hometown San Diego consultant and one from an adventurer who likes to learn leadership lessons while hanging from mountain tops in Bolivia. Well worth the experience in all three cases:
Georgia Sherrill, SPHR (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Georgia is a classic Walmart story; she started as a cashier in a Sam’s Club and now has an important job as Senior Director HR, Integration at Bentonville HQ. Part of her job is to guide the surveying of workers employed by the Arkansas giant in foreign countries. I must say I heard a statistic today which blew me away. Walmart sent out or distributed by Intranet some 480,000 surveys to non US workers and received an 89% response rate…unbelievable. I used to think I was pretty darned good to get that rate for 20,000.
Her approach to engagement was very clear and well described, the usual escalation from mere “satisfaction” through commitment to true engagement, with the kicker up to the highest level being discretionary effort not necessary for the job but desired by the worker. There was a nice use of three “S” words: Say (advocacy in favor of the company to others, a classic engagement sign); Stay (desire to be a part of things and remain on the job); Strive (willingness to exert extra effort). Clearly Walmart benefits from their relationship with their consultant in this area, Hewitt, whom they describe as a very strong partner for them. They receive Hewitt’s engagement survey expertise and also their comparative data for benchmarking. At the end of the talk, I pressed Georgia a bit to see if she would let me know how Walmart comes out in the worldwide engagement sweepstakes versus the international databases…she said they were “competitive”.
She finished up with a neat and instant mini-survey which was quite shocking: 61% of the audience denied that they “hardly ever think about leaving their job”; fully 40% said it “would not take a lot to get me to leave” the job; only about half said that the organization where they work “inspires them to do their best work”. Wow…significant turnover expected among our SHRM friends, as soon as things come around? All in all, Georgia did a great job and kept her humor and cool as the electronic projection equipment played tricks on her.
Peter Stark (www.peterstark.com)
A San Diego local, Peter has an impressive resume and clearly lots of experience. He is also a talented and funny speaker who had a full house in the palm of his hands.
His speech was based on what appears to be his proprietary database of 250 companies employing 100,000 people, and which he leverages to make statements about the top 10 factors which bring about employee engagement. He does this by analyzing the top 25% of his database to see what secrets he can wring out of the data.
He started out by looking at the leader vs. manager question, something which our Wednesday speaker, Marcus Buckingham, has also done. Peter doesn’t take the Buckingham approach of splitting these jobs into quite different categories, he sees leaders as a higher level of manager whose qualities lead people to follow them, that being the crucial difference.
His database yielded a list of engagement factors which is very familiar to those of us who have worked in this business but worth repeating:
–Creating a vision with clear goals. One that comes form the heart, is unique to the organization and is radical and competitive.
–Communication (especially the hard things like goals)
–Seeking the right people for the right jobs
–Cross-department teamwork (not just within department, that’s too easy)
–Recognizing and rewarding excellence
–Making accountability and performance count (the need for honest reviews)
–Making sure very employee can learn and grow
–Problems are no problem! (an attitude that says “we can handle things”)
–Making it “all about the customer”
It’s a good list…and he had an interesting saying from John Maxwell: “if you think your job’s purpose is to make you happy, you should be a clown”. Not sure all the “happiness at work” fans would agree!
Peter was solid in his findings, though, and well worth the time spent.
James Robbins (www.jamesrobbins.com)
James seems like a very interesting guy, part adventurer, part consultant and part coach. He started out with a long and interesting story about a mountaineering trip to Bolivia which seemed like it might end in disaster but was saved by courageous levels of leadership. He jumped on and off the table (and lay down on it) to illustrate various stages of climbing the mountain, and sleeping in his tent hanging on the edge of a precipice, a refreshing sight after hours spent watching people talk.
James also had a great quote for us, figuratively based on his adventures: “its hard to be strategic when your hair is on fire”. Like the other speakers today he stressed the data (which vary according to which consultant is quoted) that something between 50-70% of all employee engagement variance is determined by the relationship with ones direct manager (not top management).
Unlike Peter, James did not have a database to mine but instead took the audience through four psychological needs; the consequence of satisfying those needs being worker engagement:
I certainly agree with the control aspect, I have always seen that as being central to engagement, and one of the factors why (along with pay, etc.) as you move “up” the organization, morale increases….usually! Heaven help the organization where top management scores below line workers on the survey.
Finally James urged those in management positions to “create alliances with direct reports”.
OK that’s 2 hours with Al Gore et al, and 5-6 with the engagement folks….Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining, but…where’s Happy Hour tonight?
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