Volunteering: a fulfilling strategy for employee engagement

Employee engagement is ever-increasingly important in the postmodern technologically-influenced workplace. Yet, the evidence suggest that overwhelmingly, employees are not engaged in their roles. The reasons for this are multifactorial, but one example is lack of greater connection to the world around them. Ideally, a role can be productive in a way that enables an employee to feel they are serving a greater good, that their work be useful to greater society.

Mostly this is true in many industries, but it is not especially obvious in some cases. Sometimes, an employee can become trapped in the everyday monotony of the workplace and finds themself only working to collect a paycheck. If the reasons why the workplace is effective in greater society are not immediately evident, a great strategy is to engage your team in volunteering. This is supported by a 2011 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT survey which found that adult employees aged 21-35 who are frequently involved in workplace volunteer activities are nearly twice as likely to very satisfied with the progression of their career. Additionally, volunteer programs improve the corporate responsibility impact of your company, which in turn, improves its brand and favorability in the eyes of clients.

Improved Productivity

Volunteering as a workplace works becauses employees strengthen their commitment to work together towards a common goal. This improves productivity because each individual worker is steered towards the sense of being part of something bigger, and inspiration to do their part in order to not let the team down. The reward in terms of employee engagement and productivity can be reaped almost immediately.

Social networking

The impact of volunteering on social networks is immediately discernible. Not only will teammates social connections be improved towards one another, but they will meet other like-minded individuals from the community to socialise with, in turn, improve their broader social capital. This will not only benefit them in the short term to improve their wellbeing and reduce isolation, but this integration between your workers and the broader community with the visibility of them taking part in a volunteering role will improve the brand of your company.

The Sweet Spot

Too much investment in volunteering can be a negative, however. When volunteering commitments are too time consuming, individuals can be burdened and irritable with the politics involved. The “sweet spot” is for employees to be involved in 2 – 10 hours of volunteering weekly. Volunteering Australia stated that an hour of volunteering was worth $27.45 in 2010, and therefore, you can boast $527,040 per annum if you have 50 employees donating 8 hours a week of their time.

Case Study: Orange Sky

This is an organisation which provides mobile vans for homeless persons to shower or to wash their clothes, a simple luxury most of us take for granted. The time commitment is on a once-weekly basis, and the volunteering is rich with fulfillment and human connection. Homeless persons often have interesting stories to tell and your employees will benefit greatly from the social connection. So get your company involved and enjoy the fun and the benefits to the bottom line!

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

How to give Constructive Feedback senstively to avoid crushing Employee Engagement

It is said generally that praise should be given publicly, but criticism should always be private. This is particularly true in the medical culture of teaching junior doctors, where any criticism of technique should not only be conveyed out of earshot of peers, but this should also be avoided in front of patients. Providing sensitive feedback to a subordinate is an artform, but it is crucial in order to maintain that individual’s dignity and to keep their engagement in tact. So how can you provide tactful criticism that won’t get your employees offside? There are some tried and strategies to ensure you don’t mince words.

Maintain positivity

As a leader, your feedback should always have a positive tone, even when the subject matter is critical in nature. When you need to change the strategy of an employee, for example, it is unacceptable to say “that’s stupid!”, rather you should phrase the criticism as a guiding question such as, “I like your intent with that thought, but could you think of a way to make that idea more realistic and achievable?”. By remaining focussed on the goal at hand, you avoid a negative, personal attack, and instead, keep the tone more positive.

Convert criticism to constructive feedback

You are unlikely to affect real change if you leave an employee feeling bitter and embarrassed, they are likely to become even more resistant to change. For example, if you tell someone they have a “are lazy or incompetent, they are much more likely to get emotional and stubborn towards improvement. However, if there is a genuine problem, you have to say something. The strategy to take here is to begin from a different angle. Constructive feedback should be impersonal, matter-of-fact and timely. The value of behaviour change from the outset should also be made clear. For example, if you give a specific behaviour like, “I’ve noticed you’ve been late three times this week, which is likely to make your coworkers resentful of having to pick up extra work for you. What can be done about this?” This is an approach which is much more likely to get a favourable response and actually result in the change you want to see.

Difficult situations

If you come across a really difficult situation in which you have to give negative feedback, it is best to apply these techniques to the letter. It also really helps to be well prepared to provide this feedback. Specifically:

  1. Prepare facts, figures, information. Anticipate what emotions will need to be dealt with and prepare a response.
  2. Give constructive feedback – in a carefully considered manner, using the information above’
  3. Deal with excuses – patiently and respectfully
  4. Ensure that it is possible for your employees to put into place the promises they make to rectify the situation.

Finally, give constructive feedback early. It will make the whole process easier, and will likely get on to a problem behaviour early before it becomes a giant festering mess. The more you deliver feedback earlier, the less negative feedback you are likely to have to give.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

 

How to engage employees in traditionally unpleasant roles

Recently I met with someone who works in waste management at their local council,  and upon chatting to them about their work, I found they were incredibly engaged and motivated to do a great job.
Traditionally we have seen working with waste as an unpleasant role. Garbage truck drivers are often portrayed as the lowest rung in society. In addition to this, working in a local council can be fraught with bureaucracy, bringing endless frustration to its employees.
Waste management isn’t sexy, and would seem unpleasant. Though my interviewee is not a garbage-truck driver,  and he absolutely loves his job. I asked him about the reasons why his workplace was such a rewarding and fulfilling environment, and he shared an interesting perspective of how management can make even the least palatable-sounding of jobs enjoyable.

Here’s how to engage employees who are in traditionally unpleasant roles:

Support from management

A strong willingness to support employees by management was one of the first factors described by my interviewee. He stated that this was clear early on in his role, that during learning the ropes he was very comfortable with the level of support provided by management.
He also suggested that he didn’t feel pressure to take on new responsibilities before he was ready, being able to step up to answering calls on his own terms. In addition, open lines of communication have continued to help him feel supported in his role, and he feels his career development is well supported by training programs and certificates.

Team environment

The team environment in his workplace is solid, with the workload shared between members. Roles and values are clear, to ensure no one is confused about their responsibilities. And there is a great sense of camaraderie, with everyone working toward a common goal.

A culture of acknowledgement

There is also a strong culture of employee acknowledgement. Management makes the effort to set aside time to acknowledge the work of the team and will acknowledge individual efforts as well, though not publicly. Colleagues will acknowledge the efforts of co-workers also, but this is more informal that a structures part of the company culture.

Autonomy

Some flexibility exists in terms on when and what tasks are performed by employees, which my interviewee described as a motivating factor at work. He stated that this motivation increases efficiency and speed of achievement of tasks. Additionally, management is clever in that when tasks are assigned, this is done with employee strengths in mind. My interviewee described being good at meeting and greeting, so many of these roles in the public eye are assigned to him.

Greater meaning of the employee’s role

Finally, my interviewee feels his role plays a broader context in society. Particularly in this pre-climate change world, he is proud of the work he does towards protecting the environment and sustainability. The sense of meaning and fulfilment is what employees often need for a greater sense of engagement and passion for his role.

Overall, this is a great snapshot of how management can effectively support the roles of their employees to improve their motivation and engagement. The only thing that appears to be missing to be is a public acknowledgement platform that employees can use to congratulate each other on their good work, as public acknowledgement has been shown to be more effective.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

 

The Meme that Boosted the Morale of Bus Drivers, and How a Little Recognition goes a long way

You may have recently come across the memes encouraging thanking the bus driver. There has a recent surge in these surprisingly wholesome meme, but nobody knows where it started. Some reports have pointed to one former light-rail worker on twitter bringing it to our shores by encouraging passengers to engage in the simple common courtesy, with the likes of Russell Crowe backing him up. Since then, the local comedy site “Brown Cardigan” proliferated dozens of the memes, with my personal favourite being the seagull yelling “cheers mate” at the bus driver.

These memes have had a great effect on the morale of bus drivers by causing a recent surge in people actually thanking bus drivers too. Friday’s edition of the Australian featured one very smiley “Charles Everett” from Marrickville being pleasantly surprised by all the additional praise.

bus driver meme
Source: Brown Cardigan

These memes and the resulting positivity being directed to bus drivers is certainly a heartwarming story. As a daughter of a former bus driver myself, I know all too well that the rewards in menial labour are few and far between, and that for anyone trying to get through the hard slog in order to provide for their family this simple acknowledgement can make all the difference.

How does this apply to work?

It is easy to generate a similar effect in your own workplace. The effect of a simple thank you in general has been shown time and time again to boost employee morale, increase engagement and, in turn drive up productivity. This is much more achievable in a team-based setting, and certainly doesn’t require a viral social media following. Make a point of rewarding your employees for the achievements they may make. Even when there is no specific noteworthy mention to make, say thank you genuinely every day for the time your employees contribute to your office. Remuneration isn’t enough, employees need the feel like they matter and their work is valued to be engaged at work.

Some practical ways to thank your “bus drivers”

Encourage your employees to also call out the achievements of their coworkers by holding a weekly “call-out” meeting. You can also import gifts into workplace chats like Slack so that employees can gift each other with small rewards or favours such as cups of coffee or lunches.

For particularly significant achievements, like being named small business of the year in your field for example, hold larger parties to acknowledge the efforts of your employees. And of course at eofys and christmas, hold the traditional celebrations to both thank your employees and give them some time to let their hair down.

So, to increase the good that this meme is doing, take a lesson out of it’s book and remember to thank your employees at regular intervals. And indeed, in the immortal words of Principal Skinner, “Hail to the Bus Driver, Bus Driver Man”.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

Dealing with reduced Daylight Hours in Winter to avoid reduced Productivity

It’s that time of the year when the daylight hours are shortening and the temperature is low.  Your workers are likely getting in to the office before the sunrise and leaving after it sets. Everyone is aware of how crappy that feels, but what you’re probably less aware of, is that this lack of Vitamin D from natural sunlight has some serious effects on health, which can have some flow-on effects to employee engagement and overall productivity. It is important therefore, to help employees deal with this natural reduction in sunlight exposure, particularly around the winter solstice, in order to prevent them becoming down or stressed as a result.

Maximise opportunities for sunlight.

There are several ways you can do this, within the office, and by taking employees outside of the office at regular intervals. Firstly, inside the office, if you are able, have as many windows as possible with blinds drawn to expose employees to sunlight inside. If you are unable to do this, UVB lamps inside offices can improve vitamin D production through artificial lighting.

Then, outside the office, make sure your employees have the opportunities to go outside for their lunch break as often as possible. At this time, more than ever, it is important to encourage workers to go outside to eat lunch, rather that sit in the office tea room, or at their desks. If you can, encourage exercise at this time as well. A further opportunity to do this is to go for an early morning walk with your employees before beginning work for the day. This has the added benefit of helping the brain to produce more serotonin, both preventing low mood, and improving wakefulness during the day. This will have an added benefit of compounding increased productivity through this improved wakefulness.

Watch for burnout

Burnout is particularly problematic around this time. You can recognise it through symptoms of self-isolation and irritability of your employees. Burnout leads to dramatic drops in productivity and can create issues with absenteeism. It is important to let your employees know that at any point when they are feeling stressed they can come and talk to you, which is an effective strategy to prevent burnout when employees can recognise the early warning signs of poor mood and irritability. Educate them to recognise these signs, and institute an open-door policy. Additionally, it is a good idea to avoid having workers stay back for long hours. In the long run, this will worsen the progression of burnout. Send workers home, make sure they keep regular office hours as a further strategy to prevent employee burnout.

Finally, it may be worthwhile having an external psychologist or counsellor come in to talk about the potential negative health consequences of reduced sunlight. Inviting these healthcare practitioners in can potentially create links to the individual employees, who make seek their services if they begin to struggle with deeper issues.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

The 8 hour day: How to Balance the Leisure Needs of your Employees whilst maximising Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a major focus of human resources investment in current workplaces. The reason for this is clear with businesses with highly engaged employees outperforming other businesses by 51% (1). However,  highly engaged employees also tend to have less work-life balance.

This is because we can tend to label work-life balance as an individual problem rather than the company’s, and as a result more motivated people who are on the obsessive side of personality will likely sacrifice their life activities for the sake of the company. So how can we maintain high levels of employee engagement whilst being sensitive to the needs of our employees in terms of relaxation and leisure?

It is possible to promote both engagement and work-life balance at the same time. A recent study in fact examines this exact conjecture with 700 overworked technical Professionals at a Fortune 500 company (2). The research put the workers into two groups:

  1. the control group:  for whom conditions remain the same to test against the other group in order to validate the hypothesis
  2. the test group: who were given greater control of when and where they worked and were given more support by their supervisors in terms of their family and personal lives

 

In the test group, the result was a significant reduction and work-family conflict (the subjective sense of being pulled in two directions). Workers reported feeling less str—essed, overwhelmed and having more time to spend with their families. Parents only resulted in working 1 hour less per week than non-parents, and as a result of the flexibility and greater autonomy, they actually increased their productivity by spending an additional 10 – 20 hours of work at home per week.

Follow these simple steps to improve the culture in your workplace:

Policies

Leadership must demonstrate a commitment to work-life balance by putting policies into place around:

  • work hours and job design (with restrictions for job hours and minimal work required off-hours)
  • organisational culture (No internal meetings after 4:30 p.m.)
  • incentives to encourage work life balance (use it or lose it vacation policy, incentives for claiming sick days/ rostered days off)
  • provide benefits (gym membership  with use it or lose it privileges, paid paternity leave and child care

Address the Impact of Technology

Take a leaf out of Google’s book and create “charity penalties” for responding to emails out of hours (literally put a monetary fine on this that employees must pay to a nominated charity organisation).

Change company culture

  • Ensure incentives do not focus on physical presence in the workplace
  • Lead by example (be aware that your employees will watch how long you spend in the office)
  • Devalue “badge of honour”  type statements which brag about physical hours spent in the office
  • Be reasonable about deadlines and negotiate considering pressures, always organise  deadlines to occur on a Friday not a Monday so that employees not have to work over the weekend

Ultimately you want your employees to work smart, not hard. This means not spending countless hours in the office,  and having a responsible level of work-life separation. Encourage these workers and support them with the tools they need to make their work-life balance more achievable you will find you have more engaged and more productive workers overall.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

  1. Harter JK, Schmidt FL, Hayes TL. Business-unit-level relationship between employee satisfaction, employee engagement, and business outcomes: a meta-analysis. J Applied Psychol. 2002;87(2):268-79. 
  2. Kelly EL, Moen P, Oakes JM, et al. Changing work and work-family conflict: evidence from the work, family and health network. Am Sociol Rev. 2014;79(3):485-516.

How to Encourage Employee Pride in every small action: Lessons from Japanese soccer fans

You may have heard about the recent courteous behaviour of a Japanese fans of the World Cup in soccer. After their record win against Colombia in Russia, a feat not previously achieved by an Asian team against any of the teams in the soccer mad South American Nations, fans not only celebrated the win, but stayed behind afterwards to clean up the stadium. Their Culture of Pride has been contagious recently also, with the fans of the Senegal team recently also cleaning up the stadium when they defeated Poland. This level of pride in every small action is seldom seen, but it represents an inspirational attitude.

Translating this into the workplace

Imagine if your employees were this proud of their actions. If they represented your company at each conference and training session with as much pride in every action they made, not only would their engagement in their work be dramatically increased,  but the reputation of your company would be superlative, amongst competitors and clients alike.

But this change is possible. It is possible for the employees of your company to take great pride in each and every small action they make.

Is it easy to create a culture of pride in your workplace by following the five step PRIDE model (1):

P: Create a positive working environment

R: Recognise, reinforce and reward individual efforts

I: Involve and engage everyone

D: Develop the potential of your workforce

E: Evaluate and hold managers accountable

 

Positive working environment:

The positivity of your workplace environment starts with you. when communicating with employees it is  imperative to use positive language. Don’t criticize, use constructive feedback. Have an open-door policy to keep the lines of communication open and the rapport effective

A culture of recognition:

This is the backbone of company Pride. Ensure you reward your employees for their efforts in public so that they are acknowledged by their coworkers for their good work as well as just you.

Involvement and engagement:

Discuss the possibility of company actions with all of your employees by holding an open meeting for everyone to brainstorm ideas.  For example, Sony’s Corporate research department hosts an annual “Ideas Expedition”, when scientists and engineers display and demonstrate  new products that they are working on to all of Sony’s employees. This creates a culture of innovation throughout all levels of the organisation.

Professional development and learning:

The benefits of training your employees and helping them to develop their careers are well established. The most cost effective way of doing this is to hold mentor programs, which benefit not only the mentee but frequently help the mentors learn as well (2).

Evaluate your management:

Metrics can help with this: in measuring the rate of employee turnover and comparing departments you can figure out which managers are struggling to support their employees. Don’t use a punitive  approach here, reward good managers and help the poorly performing manages to improve the performance through constructive criticism and training.

Following these simple steps you can create a strong culture of pride in your in workplace that can rival any Japanese soccer fan. You will not have to wait long to reap the benefits of increased employee engagement, greater client interest and reputation amongst competitors.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

  1. Smith G. Creating pride: what great managers do to improve retention [Internet]. 2013 [cited 2018 June 25]. Available from: https://www.businessknowhow.com/manage/pride.htm
  2. Gordon SP, Maxey S. How to help beginning teachers succeed. Adolescence. 2000;35(140):818.