20 questions about employee engagement and the green goldfish


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Earlier this month I had the opportunity to be part of a webinar about employee engagement hosted by Voiance. The webinar was entitled, Driving Employee Engagement: 15 Keys to a World Class Office Culture

There were a number of questions that were posed by webinar attendees that unfortunately didn’t get addressed during the hour long session. As a little lagniappe today, I wanted to do two things:

What's Your Green Goldfish1. Give away free copies of the Green Goldfish eBook on Amazon. Click here to download your complimentary copy. The offer will expire at midnight PST on 10/24.

2. Answer those questions:

#1 – Coping with the cost

Q: We are a free transportation company. Being unique is hard to find and so is the cost. Any ideas? Also can i get a copy of this slide show?

A: Good question. I’d concentrate on simple elements like recognition and team building. Many times these things can be extremely low cost. Like one unique award that gets passed around. Or a fun team building exercise like a smoothie recipe contest.

Here is a replay of the webinar on Viddler an here’s a slideshare for the Green Goldfish.

#2 – What if we’re union

Q: We have a union here and as such my hands are very tied. Do you have any ideas in that area? We are no tallowed to just give extra time off or anything like that.

A: I think transparency is key when dealing with unions. Check out this post featuring a Brazilian company called SEMCO. They have unions, yet they go above and beyond to develop trust with their partners.

#3 – Dealing with Negative Employees

Q: How do you deal with a bad attitude? When you have tried numerous avenues, but they keep negativity on the workroom floor?

A: It’s always difficult with people who perpetuate a negative attitude. Hopefully you can try to manage the necessary behaviors. This was done effectively in the case of Sky Lakes. See this case study to see how they increased positivity with one simple rule:

#4 – Creating a recognition program that involves employees

Q: We currently recognize individuals for production-based metrics, but are considering a recognition program to reward those who contribute most to the morale of the call center. My first thought was that the winners should be voted on by their peers, but I’m concerned about it turning in to a popularity contest and missing the point. Can you suggest a better way? Or would the engagement be better by having direct input to who wins?

A: I don’t think there is a silver bullet here. You are correct. You don’t want the program to become a popularity contest, yet you want the employees to have input. It may make sense to have a bit of both. Whereby employees nominate other employees based on specific criteria and behavior that adds to morale. A manager or program director reviews the nomination for approval. This adds an element of control. Managers would also have the ability to nominate employees based on merit.

#5 – Making the time for employee engagement

Q: With a do more with less mindset how can you motivate and retain employees. Q: Our people are very busy and don’t have time to even complete their day to day tasks, how do we get them to make time for some of these fabulous “little things”?

A: Many of the ways you can execute green goldfish don’t involve $$$. But they do require time and commitment. Organizations need to make sure they put principles and culture above efficiency. Culture isn’t a campaign, it’s a commitment.

#6 – Empowering managers

Q: How do you get managers to trust and empower their direct reports?

A: The biggest mistake organizations make is not spending enough time to develop effective managers. 75% of employees that voluntarily leave an organization don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. You need to train effective managers and provide the necessary support systems for employees.

#7 – Overcoming skepticism

Q: How do you overcome initial skepticism that people will have when these new ideas are introduced?

A: There is always going to be a level of skepticism and in some cases, outright resistance. You can improve the implementation by sharing the reasoning behind new programs or policies. Creating alignment and getting employees behind new initiatives is key. Some companies have ambassador programs. The key employees (ambassadors) help lead the way with new changes.

#8 – The link between engagement and feedback

Q: One slide referenced the link between employee engagement and feedback – is the increased level of feedback the actual cause of the increased engagement or are they just related in the sense that companies that show higher levels of one tend to show higher levels of the other as well? Q: How do you engage employees when the “sticky” conversations seem to lean more towards the negative, even though the positive is constantly being reinforced?

A: This is a great chicken or egg question. I’m not sure if it’s the actual cause or just a behavior that correlates with engagement. There are two elements of feedback. How often it’s given and the ratio of positive to negative. Here are the takeaways from recent studies. The Losada line refers to the ratio of positive / negative. It typically needs to be at least 2.9 to 1 ratio for feedback to be effective. Employees that tend to get feedback more often, are more engaged. Accentuate the positive. To steal a famous line from Dale Carnegie, “A drop of honey gathers more bees than a gallon of gall (vinegar)”

#9 – Obtaining Feedback

Q: Have you found that leveraging employee surveys to find out what they want is valuable or is it better to communicate to them what the company is doing for them, or a combination of the two?

A: It’s probably a combination. It makes sense to do both quantitative and qualitative research. Surveys, focus groups and interviews. Sometimes you can’t rely on the employees to tell you what they want. To quote Henry Ford, “”If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Sometimes you need to roll things out on a test basis and see what sticks.

#10 – Dealing with staff reductions 

Q: We have recently had to reduce our staff. Aside from being very transparent about our current financials, how can I help employees feel more secure and reduce the negative energy/fall out from that?

A: It’s difficult to reduce fallout. You do your best to communicate how the company is moving forward to meet the challenges. The biggest factor that impact engagement is when employees believe senior management cares and acts in their best interest.

#11 – Going ROWE

Q: I would love to implement the Results-Only-Work-Environment type of approach and allow employees to be responsible to get work done only/ no schedule, however we have scheduled customer service phone hours that constantly need coverage from 830-430p and a very small employee population to get this done. Do you have any suggestions how to implement the type of results only culture but ensure our phone hours are covered? Q: How do you add flexibilty in a call center?

A: A ROWE workplace doesn’t work for every organization. Especially those in retail or with coverage issues. If you are interested in learning more about going ROWE, I’d recommend checking out Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson’s site.

#12 – Getting Unstuck

Q: What is good way to initiate culture change within a “stuck” organization?

A: Here is a good post on how to progress through change: Measure, Manage and Monitor: http://blog.helblingsearch.com/index.php/2012/12/27/the-three-ms-of-successfully-making-cultural-changes/

#13 – Connecting over the phone

Q: How do you engage in the two-foot area between business and customer when doing business over the phone?

A: In many ways it’s the same. The value is created between the front line employee and the customer. It’s about making a connection. Here’s a good post on the process of making that emotional connection:

#14 – The biggest “don’t do”

Q: In your experience, what is the biggest “don’t do” regarding employee engagement. Something we can stop doing today to help engagement?

A: Good point. Sometimes it’s a matter of stopping something you currently do. Try “killing a stupid rule.” Check out this article from Inc. Magazine on how to do so.

#15 – How do I impact a team?

Q: Many of these are company-driven which is great but not all companies have bought in to these ideas. How can I, as a manager, start implementing my own “engagement” program within my own team? Q: How do I impact a team on an individual level, versus an entire organization?

A: Focus on transparency, flexibility, recognition and team building.

#16 – Convincing senior management 

Q: How do you convince a very traditional, conservative management team to embrace or even consider these “small things” we have liability issues, workplace constraints and mostly, hesitant management….love all the ideas, wonder how to implement (caring versus business); we are 100K plus workforce company.

A: You need to make the business case for employee engagement programs. People are motivated by three factors in business: 1. Things that make them money, 2. Things that save them money, and 3. Things that make them look good. Here’s an example of how Aetna saved over a million dollars by doing a little extra for employees.

#17 – Empowering local offices

Q: When you have offices around a large geographic area – do you empower the locals with their own programs that work, or provide guidance from corporate?

A: You have to provide your offices with latitude and support. There is a great example from the South African Insurance provider Etana. They let innovation come from the bottom up and then do there best to support it. http://www.etana.co.za/news/entry/marketer-stan-phelps-etanas-green-goldfish-set-a-global-example

#18 – Manufacturing Examples

Q: Do you have any ideas for techniques that may work in large manufacturing type workforces?

A: One of my favorite examples from the entire Project comes from a manufacturer called Semco. They are featured in this post.

#19 – Virtual teams

Q: Any suggestions for managing a virtual team that doesn’t have a lot of face time?

A: No easier answer here. You need to make the extra effort with remote staff. By virtue of being virtual, they are going to challenged when it comes to team building and recognition. Take additional steps to bridge the gap.

#20 – Being fair

Q: Sticky: Making a gesture “memorable” and “talkable” is great. But the team environment at my company is very “me vs them” – so much that giving to one employee and not all employees would (has) cause discord. Advice?

A: As a rule you don’t need to treat everyone the same, but you need to treat everyone fairly. I’d be sensitive to your team, but at the same time you should do what’s right for the organization.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Not sure if you’d like the complimentary eBook, here is a preview in Slideshare:

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


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