Building bridges: developing the network of communication

Bridges are amazing feats of engineering, taking enduring strength and meticulous planning to construct. They provide a means to connect one place to another, enabling transport of persons and equipment not previously possibly. Bridges therefore represent a new frontier for human endeavour.

Exciting frontiers

Similarly, creating information highways in business generates new frontiers for business development. There is a concerted effort required to generate the foundation for effective communication and business relationships at all levels, from peer-peer connections, to inter-business trade. The relationships need to be gently supported to prosper, and it requires work from both ends.

Bridges and businesses

There are striking similarities in the ways that bridges and business relationships are built. Take the Sydney Harbour Bridge: construction began in 1925 at Dawes Point in the south and McMahon’s Point to the north and graduation came together over the next five years until the structure was complete in the middle. There is something beautiful in this collaboration, in the elegant plan required to align the construction and the camaraderie and teamwork involved in the labourers putting together such a magnificent structure.

Collaborative planning

The way that an effective business relationship is developed is also beautiful. The bridge built here also needs to provide a viable business model at both ends, equally enabling each co-worker, employee and manager, and sellers and buyers to maintain the integrity. Any model which favours one party over the other results in an unstable network.

Effective planning

It is also essential for the planning to be effective to support the structural integrity required. If there is ineffective planning for capacity or for taking external factors into consideration, the bridge is likely to fail. Historically, we can learn from the lesson of the Severn Bridge, to link England with Wales which was opened in 1966. The response in increase in traffic was unanticipated by the designers and another bridge had to be constructed 5 miles upstream to compensate. What you want is to design the Bay Bridge in San Francisco built in 1934 which today successfully can accommodate 240,000 vehicles.

Finally, ensure you take external factors into account, such as market growth or compliance requirements. Ensure you don’t repeat the mistakes of the Tay Bridge in Scotland which killed 60 train passengers due to its design which did not take wind-loading into account.

Mind the Gap

Basically, you want to ensure you “mind the gap” to build a successful bridge in developing a business relationship. To do this consider three main points:

–          Build from both ends, taking both sides into account

–          Consider future growth, and ensure the relationship is large enough to accommodate

–          Ensure you design your network to be robust enough to take external factors into account

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.

Employee recognition in the Hotel Industry

Anyone who has worked in the hospitality industry knows that it can be lacking in terms of recognition. This is a job that most work on the pathway to other careers, but hospitality is a massive industry. Practically every social interaction that we have depends on this industry, from first dates, to birthdays, to work functions and the hospitality we receive can have a huge impact on the relative success of these events. Without recognition, it is hardly surprising to note that the hospitality industry reports the lowest statistics for employee engagement. But this trend is surprisingly not followed in the Taj Hotels group of resorts and palaces in India, where recognition and engagement of employees equals the delivery of exemplary service to its guests in 109 luxury facilities.

So laudable are the employees of the Taj group, that they have heroically acted in the interests of their guests in more than one terrorist incident. This excellence has been attributed to the particularly effective service training that the hotel group employees undergo. There is a lot to be learned from the Ordinary Heroes of the Taj, and the lessons in terms of gratitude and engagement can be applied to not only the hospitality industry, but also all workplaces in general.

  • Expressions of gratitude should come from immediate supervisors

Immediate managers are key in determining how employees feel about the company, and therefore any engagement or recognition program needs to start with front line managers. Ultimately, engaging your managers will help them to engage your employees. Ensure your managers frequently hold briefings with their employees and ensure you check in with them regularly. Additionally, though immediate supervisors are so important, they shouldn’t be the only ones to give feedback to employees. Taj hotels employees can accumulate points from compliments from guests, compliments from colleagues and their own suggestions. Appreciation from peers is extremely powerful and should be factored into the broader system of employee engagement.

  • Recognition should be immediate and frequent

It seems that many managers save up and hold their recognition until a later time, typically until the annual review. But it is known that even financial rewards at the annual review are too little too late. The best thanks is an immediate thanks, and acknowledgment and recognition are more important than financial incentives.

  • A recognition system is necessary

Finally, Taj Hotels have a Special Thanks and Recognition System (STARS) which links customer satisfaction to rewards. Ultimately the particular system is not the important factor, but the fact that they have a system for employee recognition. Their system is also reviewed daily to ensure employee recognition is a daily occurrence. It is crucial to ensure employee engagement by employing a robust employee recognition program which pays dividends regularly.

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.

On-site corporate childcare options for employee engagement

This blog has gone into the importance of employee engagement and how to improve it many times. But it really cannot be understated how important it is for employees to be engaged in their work, both for their job satisfaction, and for the bottom line, employees are much more productive when effectively engaged. In the modern workplace, where women are increasingly represented in teams, it is important to consider specific needs to ensure your female workers are well engaged also. As a female writer, I somewhat grit my teeth as I say that an issue important to women is their children. This is because I know it shouldn’t just be a woman’s problem, and that childcare should be the responsibility of men just as much as women. But in reality, society still places the majority of the burden of childcare on the mother. It follows then, that a really effective way of ensuring productivity of your female employees is to ensure they can look after their children.

 

Marissa Mayer of Yahoo

Traditionally, a popular strategy is to job-share or to work from home. But ultimately, there is some downsides to this idea. Not being in a work environment and not being physically present to assist the lines of communication between coworkers and ensure effective teamwork can certainly hamper employee engagement and put detract from productivity. This is why the female CEO of Yahoo took the controversial step to ban remote working. For her, however, she did not see this as a problem in terms of her other parenting responsibilities, as she set up her own personal nursery in her office.

 

On-site childcare

Since then, more and more companies are offering the option of onsite childcare to satisfy the needs of their female workers, and keep them engaged in their roles. London-based investment banking firm “Goldman-Sachs” opened up their first internal corporate office creche as early as 2003. In addition, they offer subsidies and provide free-of-charge childcare in transitional times when parents return to work from taking parental leave. This has been so successful that they have rolled out the program to their Tokyo and New York offices, and they find a local childcare to subsidise if they can’t provide a local facility.

 

The business case for office-based childcare

Ultimately, onsite childcare is a fantastic driver of recruitment and retention. People want to work somewhere where they feel their family-life will be supported. Not only that, but the cost of replacing employees due to family commitments is exorbitant, especially when the employees are competent, with a good knowledge of the company processes and clients.

 

The Australian example

As yet, most Australian companies are not on board with this initiative, though it makes a lot of sense. The costs of running these facilities is certainly prohibitive for some smaller companies. One solution to this issue is being spearheaded by KidsCo Australia.  This start-up offers “pop-up” creches provided in office spaces during school holidays in whatever environments are offered to them by companies. This solves the problem of the mismatch between school holidays and annual leave at least. With this program, parents can be put at ease, knowing their children are well taken care of during the school holidays, and there is no extra drop-off and pick-up time.

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 importance of investing in workplace culture for employee engagement

While the topics of company culture and employee engagement are making strides in terms of popularity, the unfortunate reality is that many employers remain sceptical of programs which seek to implement tools to improve these aspects of the workplace. Too often, these “warm and fuzzy” notions are passed off as unimportant or not worthwhile for investment. Fortunately, the case can be made for investment in workplace culture, not just in terms of anticipated outcome for employee satisfaction. Additionally, it has been demonstrated concretely that employee engagement always  delivers results which impact the company bottom line.

The business case for employee engagement

Utilising company culture to engage employees can result in your employees being driven to go above and beyond the confines of their job description. They tend to be more creative, giving their projects more effort and more hours. Customer service performance also skyrockets when employees are well engaged, in turn leading to more satisfied customers who buy more product, are more loyal to the company brand, subsequently driving product margins and repeat business. In fact, it has been found that for every 10% improvement in commitment by an employee, will lead to an overall 2% increase in employee performance.

Like many things in life, an employer may overestimate their competence in this area. Just as 80% of drivers believe they have above-average driving skills, a fact which statistically can never be true, employees tend to overestimate the current level of engagement of their employees. This can lead an inertia towards change, as it will generally be felt that nothing needs to be done. However, it is unlikely that your company has a majority of well-engaged employees unless you have already made concerted efforts to improve company culture, as it has been found that x% of employees in Australian workplaces are actively disengaged. However, to break this illusion of competence, it is easy to track and measure the health of the culture of your workplace to make the case for investment.

 

Measuring company culture

Start to track data in the following areas to get a picture of the current baseline health of your company’s culture:

         Employee retention metrics

         Employee performance and productivity metrics

         Participation in events and optional company activities

         Participation in training and development programs (if applicable)

         Feedback

         Glassdoor reviews

         HR incident reports – specifically looking for patterns of discrimination and harassment

Utilising these data points can help point to both problem areas to focus on, but also highlight strengths. After all, it is one thing to find the negatives, but a key aspect of a healthy company culture is that positivity permeates, and thus you should make an effort to set an example of positivity in presenting the data in the first instance. These data also serve the purpose of a guide to indicate how well current measures to improve company culture are translating across into actual employee engagement. Finally, don’t let your efforts slip to fall victim to the tyranny of time. Ensure that you review the data at regular intervals to ensure that employee engagement is still on track, or hold seminars to discuss new challenges as they arise.

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.

Employee acknowledgement: the most important component of engagement

Engagement: it’s an important component of any human relationship. Before marriage, hopeful lovers commit to “engagement” before exchanging vows. The engagement is a promise to see out the outcome of marriage, and just as in romantic relationships, engagement is a commitment employees make to see out the outcome of workplace productivity. Furthermore, acknowledgement is an essential factor to ensure effective engagement, in romantic and employer-employee relationships alike. When done right, recognition of your employees can be the single most important driver of engagement, and will lead to tangible motivation and reinforcement of company values. This is more important now than ever before, as employee engagement is extraordinarily low, and it continues to downtrend .

Creating a socially cohesive workplace culture

The best way to utilise the engaging power of acknowledgement is to encourage your team to recognise the accomplishments of their colleagues. It has been shown that 77% of employees actually tie work engagement to the relationships they have with their co-workers. Investing in company culture to encourage effective co-worker relationships becomes necessary, rather than a nice bonus. With the rise of websites such as Glassdoor, it is very important to improve the workplace culture of your company, to ensure attraction and retention of good workers.

Employee recognition for retention

In the rise of the digital age, the job market is incredibly expansive. Anyone with access to the internet can deliver their resume worldwide to be considered for roles. With the rates of employee engagement being so low, it can be readily assumed that most workers are either considering leaving their current work or actively looking for roles. Therefore, it pays to ensure your workers are engaged to ensure retention. A readily effective strategy to improve engagement is through acknowledgment. If you make this highly visible, it contributes to the company culture, showing you to be a leader to give congratulations where they are warranted. Public affirmations also set you up to be a role model to encourage others to do the same, thus creating that workplace culture of employees acknowledging their colleagues.

Acknowledgement drives productivity

Engaged employees are 21% more productive, and they inspire the co-workers around them to also be more engaged, and subsequently, more productive (3). Similarly, disengaged, unmotivated and unproductive employees can provide a toxic, distracting work environment which de-motivates those around them. Unfortunately, a disgruntled employee is unlikely to reach the notice of a manager until is perhaps too late. For this reason, it is important to ensure that gratitude is a regular part of the work space, a frequently given gift which lifts the spirits of each individual employee. Provide this often enough, and it will be infectious, bleeding out into employees congratulating their co-workers as well. A useful technique is a weekly callout for managers and employees to participate in, and acknowledges the good work around. This public announcement of gratitude is the most effective way to improve engagement in the workplace.

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.

Job crafting: tailoring roles to meet an individual’s strengths

It cannot be understated; how important employee autonomy is for engagement.  Providing employees with autonomy means not micromanaging, and setting clear goals to allow employees to dictate exactly how they reach those goals. It seems counterintuitive, as a leader, to let go of the reigns and allow your employees to make their own decisions. However, the benefits of this strategy are well proven, and greatly improve the engagement of your employees, along with their productivity.

So, what is job crafting?

Going one step further is the notion of “job-crafting”. This where employees reimagine the roles of their job, to align more strongly with their strengths and values. For example, a janitor who works within a hospital can voluntarily take on roles to improve patient care, such as shifting artwork for a change of scene, or developing patient rapport by giving a kind smile whilst going about their business. Or in the case of a lawyer, who meets with the product team of their company to be proactive and avoid legal challenges before they arise, rather than just responding to them. This is based on the work of Google, who piloted the strategy, and have now encouraged others to implement it. Studies show it can increase satisfaction and engagement dramatically, and in turn will also improve employee performance.

So why not follow Google’s successful footsteps and implement this strategy? You may find your employees are already crafting their roles, in some small way. Bringing it out into the open can help you to make job-crafting have a great impact on your workplace. Use the following steps to implement job-crafting in your company:

         Encourage autonomy

An easy way to start the job crafting process is to allow your employees to work out how exactly to achieve the goals you’ve set. There is no need to dictate exactly how you want each goal achieved, and by which steps. The added initiative that your employees will be able to take will give them drive and will improve their engagement overall.

         Plan job-crafting in performance reviews

The evidence is out for performance reviews. Instead of boosting employee’s performance, they tend to focus on the negative, and create resentment and further underachievement. A more useful strategy is to give regular, short bursts of feedback, for good and for bad work, so that feedback and constant improvement is a part of everyday work. Additionally, by creating an open line of communication with your employees on a regular basis, the overall rapport will be improved in the employer-worker relationship, improving trust and therefore improving engagement. Therefore, choose to spend the time taken in performance review to discuss the direction of each employee’s role to suit their individual strengths and needs.

         Job crafting “swap meets”

One quick way of developing roles to suit employees whilst ensuring all tasks are assigned for someone to complete is to hold a “swap meet”. The idea is that everyone swaps they assigned tasks to make their job-lists more favourable. One worker’s trash is another’s treasure.

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.

Maintaining the lines of open communication: the neural network of an effective company

The brain and its neural system are the subjects of much human curiosity and interest. While countless resources are spent on technology investigating the neural system, the processes of cognition, emotion and reasoning are the subjects of children’s films such as “Inside Out”. The brain and the nervous system behaves like a colony of individual organisms, each neuron providing its own reality to contribute to higher consciousness. In a similar way, each individual member of your team is like an individual nerve cell, and your company is made up of each of these inputs. When communication is smooth between each level of the company, like an effectively functioning neural network, the overall processes of the company will be efficient and the output will be productive. Follow these steps to ensure the effective functioning of your “neural network”:

  • The Brain (cerebrum + cerebellum)

The cerebrum (structures of the brain under voluntary control) represents management in this analogy. This is the place where all inputs are processed and a decision is made about which action to take, which is then communicated down to the peripheral nerves. However, just as the nervous system needs a centre called the cerebellum to adjust for slight deviations in the environment producing balance and smooth movement, it is not wise for management to act in isolation from the rest of the company. Management should endeavour to give some autonomy to your employees to ensure processes run smoothly according to changing conditions.

  • Hormones (the neuroendocrine system)

Another aspect which helps the nervous system to function effectively is the input from hormones such as serotonin, dopamine and adrenalin. Anyone who has ever been on antidepressants will know about the common side effects of nausea and diarrhoea. This is because, just as the wiring of the brain needs the right concentration of hormones to work well, even the nervous system which helps the gut to work (the enteric nervous system) is affected by these hormones. Similarly, if your workers are not provided with the correct conditions to work in (for example: recognition, incentive, social collaboration), they will be dissatisfied and not engaged with their work. This will lead to overall lack of efficiency and productivity. By providing the right culture for your workplace, you are providing the “hormones” for your workers to effectively perform their job.

 

  • Greasing the communication network: the “myelin sheath”

You may have heard of a condition called “Multiple Sclerosis” (MS). Understanding this condition requires a little knowledge of the anatomy of a nerve cell. The nerve cell has a few to many “axons” of varying lengths which carry electrical signal along them to connect to other neurons to pass along a message. Encasing these axons, is a substance called “myelin” which insulates the electrical signal, enabling it to conduct more efficiently along the axonal fibre. In MS, this myelin is eroded by the body’s immune system, producing faults in the connections between neurons and failure to effectively transmit messages. The communication within a company can eroded by lack of trust between employees and management, producing flaws in message transmission. Avoid this situation by maintaining an open-door policy to encourage effective communication, and maintain clarity and transparency in decision making to prevent gossiping and fear-mongering.