A good break-up with a bad employee

It is vitally important that employees are in roles that suit their strengths. An employee who is in the right job for them feels they are making a meaningful contribution to the world around them. They are highly engaged, motivated and productive members of a company. However, all too often, we have employees in roles that simply do not belong. They come into work everyday, often punctual, even diligent, but they lack creativity and motivation. At best, they will barely fulfil their job requirements, and at worst, completely miss the boat. So what can be done with an ineffective employee?

Matthew Hussey

You may have heard of this new kid on the block who gives out dating advice to women: kind of a reverse pick up artist. He has recently appeared on the channel seven show “the Single Wives” to give advice to newly single women. One of his most common lines of advice to women is to let go of men who are unwilling to invest in what they need, as this is a common plight of many women, unfortunately. Like women, bosses often hold onto people who aren’t giving them what they need. And like men, bad employees need to be let go before you waste too much time with them.

A “Good” break-up

However, while employees are like men in so many ways, they are unlike them in a way that counts. You might get called a bitch if you send a text to break up with a boyfriend, but that will be the most severe of consequences. Legislation governs when, how and for what reason you can break up with an employee. And even when you satisfy these minimum requirements, they manner in which you perform a termination can affect your professional reputation. Follow these tips to ensure the break-ups with your employees go as smoothly as possible:

  • Be positive

This cannot be understated. Don’t make it a personal attack, simply point out that the role doesn’t suit them. Stick to the facts and keep their hope up that the right role is out there for them!

  • Consider reshuffling rather than terminating

Before jumping to the result to terminate your ineffective employee, consider whether they might be useful in another role. Think about whether certain strengths that they possess could be utilised in other areas. This will promote loyalty, and you may end up with a very effective employee in a different role.

  • Give a good reference

If that approach fails to work, and you have to terminate an employee, maintain a good working relationship. Offer them a positive reference, and stick to your word. Instead of personally ensuring their mistakes haunt them, speak of their strengths in refereeing them, in the hope that they will reach their effective role in the future. Your commitment to providing a smooth exit strategy for your terminated employees will suit you much better for your Glassdoor reviews and will help the right employees for your company to respect the culture available in your 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.

Therapy dogs in workplaces: the answer to worker stress?

In our postmodern, technology-driven, socially-isolated world the incidence of stress is on the increase. As we live in this stress-rife environment is it important to note that stress is not always a bad thing. In fact there is a physiological purpose for stress, that is in the situation of perceived threat of danger to either react by fleeing or striking up the resources to defend oneself, the so-called “fight or flight” mechanism. So how is stress useful in the modern world?

How to stay relaxed in a stressful environment

If you are in what we call the productive “stress-zone” your stress motivates you to achieve more than you would if you were completely relaxed. People who say they have no stress, are generally not interested in what they’re doing at all! It is when levels of stress skyrocket that we run into a problem. At this point stress de-motivates and causes us to “freeze”, so that nothing can actually be done. It is this unhealthy level of stress that all the modern techniques attempt to target.

But some techniques are better than others. The latest zeitgeist is the so-called “therapy dog”. This really is a no brainer; who could feel stressed when looking at that positive, happy and energetic face? The evidence also backs up this seemingly obvious strategy, showing that workers are much less stressed when therapy dogs are in the office. So convincing is this evidence, that therapy dogs are becoming increasingly popular additions to many workplaces. Recently, weekly therapy dogs are visiting call centre workers in NSW ambulance triple zero centres to help relieve the stress of the abuse these workers receive. The article even quotes one worker stating that “they’re just lovely to have around and it’s a great distraction from a busy environment”. It makes sense that workers in these extremely stressful environments have access to these weekly visits, but this worker has identified one potential issue with bringing the furry friends into every workplace.

Optimum Stress Relief

The optimum stress-relief technique has two characteristics. Firstly, it must be effective in making the user tranquil and at peace, which therapy dogs certainly fulfil. The second goal pertains to the aforementioned idea that stress prevents us from being productive. Therefore, an effective treatment for stress improves productivity. A dog requires a lot of attention: feeding, petting, exercise. From the words of the worker at NSW Ambulance, therapy dogs are distracting, and don’t lend themselves to productivity.

Unfortunately, there is another reason you may not be able to have a therapy dog in your workplace. Allergies are a common ailment affecting many, and more and more allergies are starting to affect many more people, for unknown reasons. If even one person on your team has allergies, the possibility of therapy dogs is completely off limits. Therefore, more inclusive, more effective strategies are needed to relieve stress in the workplace. The gold standard is mindfulness, a calming, tranquil strategy which clears the mind and allows one to be more focused. Read more about mindfulness on smiling mind here (2).

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.

5 common mistakes made by management which result in unengaged employees

Engagement of employees is currently a highly discussed topic in human resource management, and yet repeated studies find that employee engagement is chronically low in modern workplaces.

Gallup reports that the number of engaged employees in Australian workplaces is as low as 24%. The benefits of employee engagement are well-known, so how is it that we are getting it wrong so much of the time. One answer could be found in management at a local level, which can be due to a variety of factors, as explained below. If you’ve pulled out all the stops in terms of organisational change to influence employee engagement and you’re still not seeing results, typically you’ll find that management is the key to rectifying the issue and ensuring success.

  1.       Lack of consistency

Clarity and consistency in terms of goals to be achieved is one of the key aspects of employee engagement. It is not fair to be ambiguous or inconsistent in your directions and wonder why your employees disappoint with what they produce, or are ineffective in their teamwork. Provide clear, consistent instructions for what you want to be achieved, and all will be on the same page and productivity will be much improved.

  1.       Favouritism

Nobody likes a brown-noser. Realistically, this doesn’t work for engagement of anyone in the workforce. The favourite employee will be comfortable with their current level of work and will not strive to improve, because why would they? They have all the perks without having to strive. Additionally, the other employees will resent the favourite, and will be disengaged by the idea that they can’t improve their standing, so they won’t bother to work hard either. The subsequent toxic culture will be bad for both company productivity and employee wellbeing. Of course, you’re going to like some people more than others, this is just human nature. Ensure that you don’t let it affect how you treat your employees, however. Reward incentives based on merit, and remain impartial in your language and feedback.

  1.       Micromanagement

Again, nobody likes a micromanager. Step back and realise that if you have set clear and consistent company values and goals, your employees will make good decisions, as if you made them yourself. Autonomy in the workplace is another key feature of employee engagement, as employees feel rewarded by the ability to take initiative and make their own decisions. What’s more is that they own their work, turning up every day, knowing they have something to contribute.

  1.       Lack of open communication

Following on from the last point, effective trust can’t be established without effective communication. Have an open-door policy, and ensure that employees know that they will be listened to. If they come to you with complaints, this is best achieved by actioning their solutions. You must also give regular, unbiased and constructive feedback.

  1.       Burnout

Finally, it is easy to understand why some employees might be burnout if their managers are also disengaged. Managers who don’t use vacation days, workplace perks or send weekend emails, are likely to be setting an example for their employees to do the same. The solution is in offering more training and support. Teach that more hours do not equal more productivity, and incentivise more efficient work, rather than spending more time at work.

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.

Thomas Kuhn’s paradigm shift: the increasing need for employee engagement

You may recall the basic image of a duck which transforms into a rabbit and vice versa. Depending on the structure of your brain, and whether you exhibit left- or right-hemisphere dominance, you will interpret this picture differently, as a duck, or a rabbit. Regardless or your predisposition, you will likely even notice a “shift” in your interpretation of the image, and depending on how effectively you have trained your brain to switch between left- and right-hemisphere processing, you may experience the shift occurring multiple times in your consideration of the image.

This picture, was first introduced by Thomas Kuhn in 1962, who used it to describe the “paradigm shift”. It even appeared in an episode of “How I Met Your Mother”, when the gang tries to convince Robyn she will begin to see her new co-worker in a new light of romantic potential (whether the duck or the rabbit represents the potential becomes completely confused, and I cannot now recall exactly which is which). Classically, Kuhn referred to a “paradigm” as a shared entity between a group of a scientists, to the exclusion of others. The “shift” was a deviation from the assumption which underpinned this paradigm, challenging the basic understanding of a theory. It goes to the heart of what Einstein said, that it would only take one thinker to demonstrate his work wrong.

The “paradigm shift” represents a difficult but necessary lesson for managers to learn in today’s evolving workplace. With a greater reliance on technology, a more distributed workforce and less motivation by money, management must adapt by focusing more on its people. The following are three ways to effectively engage employees in the modern dynamic work environment:

Provide more autonomy

Employees demand more autonomy in the workplace: to be able to influence the processes they work with so that they can achieve the tasks they require. You may feel that this is an untenable position, that the job that you provide demands to be done in the way you have requested. But this attitude will not get you far. If you want return on investment, if you want quality of performance, you must pay attention to employee needs, as unengaged employees simply do not perform well.  Furthermore, a bottom-up approach works. If you have many engaged, intelligent, creative thinkers working for you, designing the systems you have in place for maximum effectiveness and efficiency, this is always superior to management calling all the shots. You are much less likely to get it right by yourself.

 Create a culture of trust

This step goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. If you give your employees trust and autonomy, they feel respected, their self-esteem increases and the general engagement and productively also improves. You can further establish this culture of trust by keeping the lines of communication open always, letting employees know they can contact you anytime with difficulties.

Acknowledge accomplishments

Finally, acknowledge the hard work of your employees. It is not enough to remunerate your employees and think this is enough thanks. As aforementioned, today’s employees are less motivated by money. Provide your employees with a public acknowledgement of their success, and encourage a culture of employees congratulating each other for their accomplishments as well.

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.

Maximising employee efficiency through creating a fun working environment

Positive and vibrant company culture has become an increasingly sought-after attribute. Not only are employees in the search of a company that will develop their skill-sets,  challenge them professionally and remunerate them accordingly, employees are on the hunt for companies that can promise a vibrant team of like-minded individuals. Companies which can offer this strong positive company culture enjoy many benefits from investment in this principle. Company culture has significant implications in all other areas of company performance, leading to efficiency and productivity by employees at work, through increased engagement. Furthermore company values can extend into the brand which consumers associate with your company name, making your product more attractive and competitive on the market. One only needs to think of companies like Google,  Apple and Twitter, and immediately positive emotions of fun and enjoyment spring to mind. This is what creating a fun and vibrant culture can do for you!

Promote Fun

Don’t lose sight of the need to create opportunities for fun and enjoyment in the workplace. Take note of the general office vibe, and if it is suffering, ensure to give employees a break for a chance of some enjoyment. The team will be friendlier, more connected, and more engaged with their work. This doesn’t have to be difficult, it can easily be achieved by incentivising goals with prizes or footing the bill for happy hour occassionally.

Have a clear direction

One simple action to avoid a lot of frustration for employees is to ensure that the overall company direction is clear. The negative effects of a lack of clear direction have wide-ranging consequences such as decreased motivation and general unhappiness. As a leader, create a clear set of goals and ensure they guide both your decisions and those of your employees. This will create a more cohesive team, and provide a source of motivation and pride in the company values.

Encourage autonomy

This may seem contradictory to my last point, but in fact, greater autonomy for employees breeds greater motivation and greater productivity of the company in turn. Allowing employees autonomy does not mean that your company will be anarchy. If employees have a clear sense of direction of the company goals, they will use these to define their decisions, and they will make decisions as if leadership made them. Do you want one brain in control of the company and a bunch of mindless drones?  or do you want a team of highly engaged, thinking, motivated employees who are all using their intelligence to better the company? I think you know the answer.

Engender a culture of recognition

One further aspect of a strong and positive culture is a focus on recognition. It is well known that incentivising company goals makes productivity increase dramatically. But one way to make productivity reach even higher extremes, is to recognise your employees’ achievements publicly in front of their coworkers. Even better is to encourage your employees to acknowledge their coworkers good works by having a weekly shout out, or allowing employees to gift each other free coffees via workplace chat apps like slack.

Through creating a culture of fun, recognition, and free-thinking, Your employers would be more motivated more engaged and more efficient at work. Achieve success through a culture of fun, facilitated by recognition and affirmations.

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.