Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

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Is Corporate Loyalty Dead?

December 4, 2013

Nope, but it is a former version of itself.  It doesn’t look the way it looked 30 years ago…gone are the days (for most) of working at a company for 25 to 30+ years and retiring with the gold watch.  So if loyalty from employees is different…what is it, how do you define it, and most importantly…how do you capitalize on it?  Consider this example…

In my local December 1st paper there was an article on airline frequent flier miles and transferable policies.  It compared the largest U.S.-based airlines on clear and published polices vs. vague, unpublished and inconsistently applied policies.  It also compared on specific policies like if the accumulated points were transferable and if a fee was charged, or not, on transferring the points.  Another policy compared was whether there were limits to whom you could give your points too, especially after death.  (In case you are wondering, US Airways was the clear winner on providing clear guidelines and in my opinion had the best consumer policies.)  And the last sentence of the article packed the biggest punch…”the average American is a member of 22 loyalty programs.”  Twenty-two!  A quick look in my wallet had me as a member of 16 loyalty programs.  I was kinda surprised…who knew I could be so loyal?  The research firm in the article – Colloquy – estimates that “memberships in such programs increased more than 26% in the past 2 years, and all those miles, points and rewards are worth some $50 billion.”

Clearly Americans love loyalty programs.  Why?  While the programs provide repeat customers to the company, in the consumer’s eye they benefit greatly, and in some cases in really big ways. (Think lots of free flights.)  A loyalty program puts me at the center…I get sneak peeks on new items, first notification of big sales, free products and some special treatment.  Loyalty programs put ME first (or for the most part I have agreed to believe they do)!

But companies are different with their employees…they expect loyalty before giving you big rewards. Consider that for the most part all I have to do is sign up for a consumer-based loyalty program and I’m accepted.  So what if companies flipped the idea of “loyalty”.   What if loyalty was no longer equated with job stability or employment for life, as it is defined today.  But what if it was defined as how a company invests in you – from day one.  Put the employee at the center, support them in their development, provide clear, published expectations and throw in some fun rewards!  And remember to remind me of why I am loyal…a consumer-based loyalty program reminds me every time I check out and get a discount with my card or redeem my miles/points for free stuff.  Companies need to do the same too.

Final thought:  To all the companies…It’s true, I may not be employed with you for the next 20 years but we could have a good 3-to 5-to 7-year run in which I do right by you and you do right by me.  Loyalty, redefined.

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Well That is Just Depressing

November 7, 2013

I recently read in my local paper an article titled “Not happy with work? Wait till you’re 50 or older.”  The article provided data from a study conducted by The Associated Press – NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.  The study found that 9 in 10 workers who are 50 years or older say they are very or somewhat satisfied with their job.  It seems older workers, regardless of who they are, reported higher satisfaction with their job.  The assumption drawn from the study was that “older workers generally have already climbed the career ladder, increased their salaries and reached positions where they have greater security, so more satisfaction makes sense.”  The study also reports that 38% of young adults express deep satisfaction with their work as compared to 63% of those 65 years and older.

So if I’m not engaged and satisfied with my work I should just wait until I get older?   That can’t be right.  Yes, I understand the subtle point the article is making…there are more variables to cause me unhappiness in a job the younger I am.  And as I age I can become more settled in the direction of my life and my career.  But waiting till I am 50 years or older to be satisfied in my work is just depressing.

When I work with companies or teach classes/workshops on employee engagement I break engagement down into four parts, four equal parts yet some are truly more important than others.  Those four parts are the individual, the manager, the team, the company. (For smaller companies there may only be three parts as the company isn’t large enough to have different teams.)  Engagement starts with the individual so the idea of just waiting around to grow older to become satisfied or engaged doesn’t add up.  You can’t motivate someone who doesn’t want to be motivated but it is an employee’s responsibility to show up willing, with a mindset, that he or she wants to and can be engaged in their work.  And that doesn’t just happen with age.  That happens by choice.

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Do you care for me?

October 21, 2013

I recently conducted qualitative research for a graduate school thesis…how employees perceive leadership as told through their worst boss stories.

At the heart of looking at worst boss stories is being able to peel back what is hard to articulate in a positive boss relationship.  Worst boss stories allow you to drill down to what is really important when a relationship isn’t what it is supposed to be because what is actually needed is able to come through more clearly.  This research provides a back-to-basics step in clarifying what employees really want from the relationship with their boss.  My research shows there are two overarching themes…employees expressed a need for task support and emotional support.  Now this is not a new revelation but the research provides an additional body of research from a different perspective, one not told in academic research.

So why study leadership and the boss/subordinate relationship?  Some would consider it to be an over-exhaustive subject.  Because we are human and we like to study relationships.  Outside of marriage and raising kids there is not another relationship we focus on more than the boss/subordinate relationship, which is at the heart of leadership.  Let’s face it, when something is a main constant in our lives we have a tendency to obsess about it.  In fact, as a society, we are obsessed with leadership.  A recent Amazon.com search pulled up almost 85,000 books on the topic of leadership.  Which provides another reason for my research – to cut through the enormous amount of styles…situational, country club, charismatic, authentic, and what about being creative…and focus on the relationship.

From the stories told and understanding what task and emotional support is as defined by my research provides a simple, though often overlooked reality of the boss-subordinate relationship.  When you drill down to the heart of what employees are looking for they need three things from the boss subordinate relationship which I call the Leadership Covenant³™.  The tenants of the covenant are:

1. Care about me
2. Guide me
3. Speak up for me

Employees want to know you care about them.  In a recent article in the Fortune magazine Frank Blake, CEO of Home Depot talked about the first step to improving customer service is to “start by taking care of the associates.”  Blake goes on to talk about the first question an employee will ask of the company, which isn’t about training, but is “Does the company care about me?”  It is a basic first step in building the relationship.  Companies must care and bosses must care.  I believe when you stop caring about the people you lead you cease to be a leader.

Employees want to be guided.  They want direction, but they don’t want to be controlled or dis-respected.  Academic research shows that one of the three reasons someone stays at a company is direction.  To be engaged and a contributor to the company’s success you have to know what you are doing and what is expected of you.

Employees want a boss to speak up for them.  Be an advocate…look out for employee’s interest, help them develop their skills and career, understand what drives and motivates them. And when you are speaking up for the employee, don’t take credit for what they did.  Simple enough, surprisingly hard for many to execute on.  (Read this article if you have a boss who takes the credit and blames the failures on you.)

The Leadership Covenant³ is simple to understand, but execution seems to provide the most hurdles.  So what do you think?  Take our poll and don’t forget to share your comments.

 

 

 

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There’s an Employee Appreciation Day?

March 5, 2012

Did you know last Friday, March 2 was Employee Appreciation Day?  Yep, just one day on a random Friday that I guess probably went unnoticed by your boss or at your office.  And thank goodness it did.  Can you imagine celebrating Employee Appreciation Day when your company doesn’t appreciate employees in general – makes for an uncomfortable pizza or cake party?  Reminds me of a client meeting last year when it was mentioned that “Administrative Professionals Day” was coming up and they all quickly grabbed their phones and made a note of it. It’s like grandparents day too.  If it takes a day for you to recognize and thank your employees or assistant (or even your grandparents)…you might be dealing with a bigger problem. 

Why does it take a publicized day to remind you to thank those who make your life better (assuming your employees, assistant and grandparents actually make your life easier)?  In theory we understand the statement that companies don’t function without their employees is true but sometimes theory and practice couldn’t be farther apart.  You, and every boss or leader at your company should be showing your appreciation to employees often and for reasons that matter.   So what are the reasons that matter?  Here’s a bright idea…ask them.  Those employees can be quite clever and they typically know what matters to them in terms being recognized because they are appreciated.  I’ll give you a few ideas to get started when recognition and appreciation is needed…taking on a stretch project no matter the outcome, going above and beyond the “typical” work load, coaching or mentoring another employee, dealing with a  difficult client, trying to stay focused on work when dealing with a personal issue…and there are so many more. 

Also, don’t show appreciation for just showing up – that is hollow and meaningless.  One of the greatest ways to show appreciation is to thank your employees individually for their contribution and explaining how their contribution matters to the company.  Make the connection to how they matter to the work they do, to the company’s clients and the company overall.  When you are able to consistently show your appreciation you’ll never think twice about a throwing an awkward pizza party on some random Friday in March to remind your employees you care and they matter.

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Culture vs Strategy…Who Wins

January 16, 2012

So what is more important, culture or strategy?  You know you need both but which is more important? If you’ve ever heard one of my employee engagement or generational diversity presentation you know what the answer is and you know why.  As said best by Peter Drucker: 

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Research abounds regarding how culture impacts the success of a company – its profitability, its ability to innovate, and gain market share.  I recently read Derek Irvine’s blog post on TLNT “4 Reasons Why Culture is More Important than Strategy.” In the post Derek highlights recent research from Booz & Co. which adds more data and statistics to the “culture vs. strategy” debate.  Booz & Co. reports “that companies with unsupportive cultures and poor strategic alignment significantly under perform their competitors…. In fact, companies with both highly aligned cultures and highly aligned innovation strategies have 30% higher enterprise value growth and 17% higher profit growth than companies with low degrees of alignment.” [Read the article, Why Culture is Key in Strategy +Business.] 

I wonder how many business leaders, CFOs and board chairmen and chairwomen read those stats and actually believe them.  Do they think the P&L or expansion plans are the only facets of the business that matter?  I mean matter enough to garner a healthy dose of their attention?  I’m sure some thought is given to the office atmosphere but culture is more than that.

Culture can be defined in many ways (as the research abounds so do the books on the topic). A consultant and friend defined culture once as “…how we treat our co-workers.” But at the heart of it culture sets the tone of how the company operates and functions.  Culture manifests itself in seemingly everyday ways – like how the office is decorated, the stories employees share (especially to new employees), and the informal communication style.  And culture manifests itself in larger ways – like the values (and unwritten rules) the employees embrace and live out and the type of person (a hero) employees look up to.

The research supports it, the management gurus speak to it and past experiences prove it’s worth (ask anyone of the risk taking culture embedded at Enron)…is your leader on board?  Are you?

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