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These days, if you haven’t heard the phrase ‘employee engagement’, you’re likely living under a rock or on a deserted island.  A quick search of the term will yield dozens of articles and statistics on the benefits of an engaged workforce.

Most organizational leaders know it’s important to engage their employees, they know they need a strategy….and yet they still haven’t done anything about it.  Meanwhile, their culture is eroding, turnover is high, and customers are unhappy.

Always one to give people the benefit of the doubt, I wonder if the lack of movement is due to simply being overwhelmed and not knowing where to start?

If you’re one of these leaders, I suggest a simple first step: ASK your employees.

  • Ask them what they like about their role, the company, their manager
  • Ask them what they wish could change about the company
  • Ask them what types of company perks would excite them

Aside from doing nothing, I believe the biggest mistake leaders make is to assume they know what their employees need or want without ever asking them directly.  I certainly made this mistake early on in my career.

I was leading a team of 14 account executives across a multi-state region and, to help them feel connected to each other, I hosted a monthly team meeting.  To add value to these meetings (or so I thought), I started a book club.  Each month, I’d choose a book that I enjoyed and mail it to each of them at their office.  Then, when we’d get together, I’d make time on the agenda to talk about the book.  I loved every minute of these meetings, especially the book discussion.  It’s no wonder why:  I LOVE to read, and I CHOSE the book.  Recipe for disaster unless you’re a group of one.

It wasn’t until a few months into the book club that a person on my team approached me and, with tears in his eyes, told me he hates to read and is not a good reader.  He was so overwhelmed with the idea of having to read a book each month that he began to dread the meetings.  I was devastated.  That was the very LAST thing I wanted any of my teammates to feel.

I heard him loud and clear (and was so grateful to him for his honesty) and immediately made the book club optional.

I still think about that conversation 15 years later.  It was a pivotal moment for me, one that I will truly never forget.

One more thing to consider: as you compile the questions to send to your workforce (companies like Survey Monkey have a free account option) it’s important you also allow each employee to respond anonymously.  It’s the only way to ensure you receive honest answers.  If you require your people to attach their name to their response, they’ll likely feel nervous to be candid for fear of retribution.  Lack of candor equals an echo chamber of glowing feedback that won’t set you up for success as you build your employee engagement strategy.  However, through your efforts to create better employee engagement, you may also create a culture of psychological safety, where your employees no longer need to be anonymous to be honest.

The power of curiosity – simply asking your employees what they want and need and being willing and able to take action on it – will change your organization. I suggest you try it today.

Curious to learn more? Reach out to me carrie.missele@inspirantgrp.com, I’d love to connect!

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You’ve hired great people. Now, of course, you want them to stay—and truly thrive.

Now more than ever, companies are finding themselves investing in employees and prioritizing onboarding as a strategy to attract and keep top talent.

One of the most effective ways to do this is by offering a seamless onboarding process that supports employees during their most vulnerable period: the first year. According to a survey by BambooHR, 31 percent of people leave a job within the first six months because they feel neglected, overwhelmed, under-appreciated and underqualified. So, it’s critical to drive deep and meaningful connections with new hires from day one, then provide ongoing support and resources that enable them to succeed. According to the Human Capital Institute (HCI), 69 percent of employees say they are likely to stay with a company for at least three years after a positive onboarding experience.

When you do, the results are powerful: Companies that are intentional about how they integrate employees from the very start end up having a happier and more productive workforce, reducing turnover and retaining clients at a higher rate.

What does a well-designed onboarding program look like? Beyond processes and paperwork, onboarding should be an experience that is structured, engaging, continuous and meets a variety of needs (for the organization and for the new employee). Consider the following elements:

  • Validate an employee’s decision to join your company and thank them for choosing you
  • Build awareness of and a commitment to your history, mission, vision, core values, and culture
  • Define and set expectations when it comes to roles, responsibilities, goals and norms
  • Help new team members understand how they can contribute to the bigger picture and the organization’s success

When designing or refining your onboarding approach, it’s important to keep these three considerations in mind:

  1. All leaders must be aligned. For any program to be well-received and effective, company decision-makers need to have buy-in—recognizing the need for it and value of it—and be directly involved in shaping what it becomes.
  1. Begin with some self-discovery. As one of your first steps, take time to identify and evaluate where the company is today and where you want it to go. This should include candid, and even anonymous, conversations with employees to understand what is really happening. This information can be used when making decisions about how to structure your onboarding and, ultimately, to help shape your company culture.
  1. Collect feedback. Employee engagement is something that can and should be measured, so that you’re constantly responding and adjusting in real-time. Consider regular surveys to get a pulse on how new hires are faring: Do they feel connected? Are they familiar with the organization’s mission and vision? Are they receiving the right internal resources to do their jobs well? This is also an opportunity to gauge employee satisfaction, including what is working and what the company can do better.

A well-executed onboarding program, as part of your overall employee engagement strategy, sends a clear message that your company is committed to supporting your team members’ growth. To help with this, our team at Inspirant Group created Immersity: A Culture Immersion Program, a customized solution that consists of learning modules to fit individual needs. Throughout our consulting work with clients, we’ve seen a need to develop a program to help companies connect with their new employees by setting clear expectations that help them become immersed in their roles from day one.

The facilitated modules are easy to adapt to individual companies, ensuring a smooth process of implementing each learning unit. The modules include topics such as building trust, company mission and vision, business etiquette and culture, effective communication, emotional intelligence, and critical thinking and decision making.

The way in which you welcome new hires to your organization matters. You’ve spent considerable time and money to recruit these individuals. Now, the same effort should be dedicated to bringing them on and setting them up for success.

To learn more about Immersity and take our short onboarding survey, click here.

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Efficiency is probably the most used word in any conversation about business processes and procedures.  Everyone wants increased efficiency defined by decreased costs, decreased cycle times, and/or decreased overall waste.  Efficiency, however, is only part of the equation when determining the effectiveness of a process.  In fact, I submit, efficiency is the least important part of this equation.  The ultimate determination of the effectiveness of process improvement is how that improvement affects the competitive position of the firm.

Organizations are organisms.  No single process, department, or division exists in a vacuum.  As such, every decision from process improvements to vendor selections must be not only weighed against efficiency benchmarks but also analyzed within the context of an overall business strategy.  Take these examples:

  • A service company can make an invoicing procedure super-efficient by only producing one format, sending invoices via email only, and ignoring client requests and complaints.  This would drastically reduce preparation time, development costs, and process errors.  Yet, if the firm’s competitive strategy is to differentiate itself from the competition by providing an exceptional customer experience, this process improvement has failed.

  • A consulting firm catering to local startups could save a few hundred dollars a month going with a big box supply vendor instead of a smaller local supplier.  Yet, if this consulting firm touts its support of local businesses as parts of its competitive positioning, a decrease in office supply costs would be a failed improvement.

  • A manufacturing firm can decrease production times by reducing redundant quality checks.  However, if this firm’s differentiation strategy is to provide the highest quality products, this process improvement has failed.

As you can see from these examples, there are situations where a process change can improve KPIs but hurt the organization.  As operations professionals, it is our responsibility to take business strategy into consideration when improving a process.  An “improvement” that saves $1,000/month but weakens business is not a real improvement.

Your billing procedures may be more labor intensive than is optimal, your factory output may be a little lower than you would like it to be, and/or your office supply costs may be a little higher than they could be.  However, if this is the cost of keeping your processes and procedures in line with the firm’s strategic vision, it is probably worth it.

Efficiency contrary to strategy is equal to waste.  Embrace strategic efficiency.

The Inspirant Insight’s Throwback series is content written by our team before they were part of Inspirant Group with additional Insights added in the form of video commentary. This article was originally published at lenmusielak.com on April 13, 2015 as Strategic Efficiency Is Key to Success.

Copyright by Inspirant Group, Inc. All rights reserved.