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Posts Tagged ‘Employee engagement’

One of my takeaways from the conference – everyone is mad at performance management.  Managers hate doing it.  HR hates administering it.  CFOs hate having a huge asset (people) with no real feedback loops or accountability system.

I have an idea.

Instead of using software to automate a flawed system, use new communication channels (social networking, perhaps?) to build a fast feedback system that is more direct, and get a better result with less hassle.  I’ll be meeting with some social networking wonks and geeks next week, and I will be pushing this idea on them.  They don’t have an HR background, and that may actually be an advantage.  This is a marketing and communication and system design problem, more than an HR issue.  It’s just an issue that we all need to fix.

Now more than ever.  I’ll keep you posted.

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Got the computer working.  Sorry about the gap.  Back to some tidbits from David Kotter’s session.

Overall, this was the best general session of the conference because it came down from 35,000 feet and actually gave tactical advice that I could use.

Kotter also did some very basic, useful things from a media standpoint.  He did not use powerpoint, he used a sketch pad, a sharpie, and had the image put up on a screen.  Kind of a high tech overhead projector.  I have seen professors doing this in college, and Edward DeBono did it in a presentation that I saw.  I like it from an adult learning perspective.

He also illustrated one of his basic points – that people are very creative if the environment is right – with videos of first person interviews.  The one that had a sewer cleaner narrating how he had personalized his truck and equipment was a refreshing reminder of the creative spirit of the American worker.

Overhead projector with a modern touch

Overhead projector with a modern touch

Back to the content.  He made the point that a key executive  skill is getting traction for systemic change, and that there is a basic pattern for making it happen.

It starts with that poorly-defined but muched talked about ingredient – Leadership.

“Leadership is very much associated with vision.  It’s very market oriented, very rational.  It’s very much associated with getting people to really, deeply buy in to this, get aligned and work together, going in the same direction to solve problems.  It’s also about getting employees pumped up, empowered, motivated, inspired to make shifts happen.”

Then he talked about urgency.  He said that most orgnizations clearly aren’t feeling a strong sense of urgency to act when it comes to addressing the impact of our current situation.  This lack of urgency directly relates to the change management challenges we are all facing.

Begin with increasing a sense of urgency.  It helps shake things up and make things happen

Once this is accomplished, employers need to push for positive change, working to achieve some short term wins that will help make the changes stick.

Companies must create systems that managers can both manage and adapt, allowing positive changes to be triggered and implemented at the front lines of customer service.  This is where fear can keep leadership from seeing potential opportunities and, therefore, squelch a sense of urgency to act.  This inaction is the barrier to change.

Combine or alternate this fear with compacency, and things get gridlocked.

“Complacency is when you get a collective group that thinks what it is doing is just fine.  Take Washington DC, for example.  Do you think the two parties are behaving with you in a fundamentally different way than they did five years ago?  Do you think the administration is staffing people with a process that is different than any other administration?  It’s the same.  The same.  The same.”

Kotter urged attendees to avoid the frentetic activity that leaves people emotionally drained and burned out.  “These problems with our serious economic conditions are hurting a whole lot of people, especially the most vulnerable in our society.  This is unacceptable – and also unnecessary.”

I guess what I liked about his approach is that it resonated with the chaos and burnout that I am seeing in modern organizations, and was willing to have the competing issues of complacency and chaos on the same page.

Overall, turn up the urgency, and have a concice plan for change.  Then you will be developing the environment andoffering the tools to get some change done.

Kotter's list of 8 steps

Kotter's list of 8 steps

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From a session –

Why do dissatisfied employees stay and make us crazy?

1. Fear of the unknown

2. Some people are underacheivers and have found a place to hide

3. Golden handcuffs – medical or personal issues

4. Demographics – a child in school or close to retirement

5. Love the work.  They just aren’t good at it.

6. Work is a social club and they’re a member.

7. They have a personal bond with their boss, and they’re boss isn’t holding them accountable

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Just had a chat with a very frustrated head of HR from a social service agency.  She was on the trade show floor shopping for performance management software.

I challenged her that when she installed the online system, that the managers would hate it at the same as they hate the paper based one, only at a faster rate.  They would be ignoring her at the speed of light, not the speed of paper.

The answer?  Use the guise of the economic crisis to redesign the system using a “clean sheet of paper” approach, both eliminating waste and respecting her people.  Simply put, make it better and stop the madness.

She is going to call a meeting with her managers, and redraft the system using social networking tools as the engine of communication, and get away from annual reviews.  Faster, simpler, better.  I’ll keep you posted.

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