Friday, August 20, 2010

Employee Morale

It seems you can’t turn on the television or radio this week without hearing about Steven Slater, the flight attendant who made an angry exit from his job. As an employer, the topic of employee morale comes to mind. The following are a few ways to ensure your talent doesn’t walk out the door, or emergency exit.


Don’t limit feedback to only letting employees know when there’s a problem. Be sure to let them know when they’ve done a good job.

Feedback should be reciprocal. Give employees the opportunity to provide feedback on how to improve the work environment or processes related to their job. This can be as easy as setting up a suggestion board or box.


Open and continuous communication is important to ensure employees are informed about matters affecting them. Employees who understand how they contribute to the success of the organization are engaged and willing to put in a great deal of effort beyond what is normally expected to help the organization succeed. Communicating the vision of the future of the company and the plan to get there ensures ‘buy in’ from employees and has a positive effect on morale.

Physical Work Environment:

In addition to contributing to positive morale, the physical can also contribute to productivity and safety.

Aspects of the work environment that should be considered include:

- Lighting
- Plants
- Flowers
- Artwork
- Noise
- Distractions and interruptions
- Physical design and organization of the work area
- Social Responsibility

Employer supported volunteerism allow organizations to foster a more personal link to the community by sharing its employees. Employees who participate in giving back to the community feel good about themselves and feel good about the company they work for.

Improving morale is an ongoing process and part of a work culture. What does your organization do to ensure employees are proud to say you’re their employer?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Stress and Burnout

While not all levels of employee stress are detrimental, and a moderate level of stress can sometimes increase the performance of employees, high levels of stress can be harmful to the functioning of employees and their surroundings.

Irritability, nervousness, and a host of both mental and physical health problems can be a result of over-stressing employees; all detrimental to both the on-job performance and the personal lives of employees.

With studies reporting as high as 60% of employees possessing high levels of stress, the root causes of occupational stressors are understandably common. High demands combined with little decision-making ability, poor supervision, inadequate means for feedback and opinion, instable workplace and lack of quality performance feedback can all contribute to the perfect storm of stress. At the heart of the storm lies the end result of prolonged, un-managed stress; Burnout. The mental, emotional, and even physical exhaustion that can occur in any employee, Burnout is best approached with a proactive role to prevent it before it occurs.

The following steps can be taken to reduce dysfunctional stress in the workplace:

1. Establish effective two way communication channels – a proper mix of personal and impersonal (as some employees may not feel comfortable addressing concerns face-to-face) and frequent communication can assist in relieving workplace stressors before they become insurmountable.
2. Assist Employees in Time Management – guidance and clear deadline and goal setting practices can alleviate performance anxiety, which brings us to the next point:
3. Clear Performance Expectations – with clear expectations, the work environment looses the instability and ‘unsure feeling’ that is a notorious employee stressor.

As previously stated, employee stress is best managed with a proactive approach.
What have you found working as an effective stress management technique? Leave a comment below and share your story.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tailor Made Orientation

Orientation programs are designed to familiarize new employees with their roles, the organization and policies, as well as other employees. The benefits of a properly implemented orientation program are extensive, including:

• Reduce employee turnover
• Establish clear job and organizational expectations
• Reduce errors and save time
• Improve job performance
• Attain acceptable job performance levels faster
• Reduce employee anxiety
• Increase organizational stability, and
• Reduce instances of corrective discipline
The startup costs of new employees, including the reduced rate of efficiency and the need of supervising are very significant, strengthening the requirement for a proper orientation program.

However, an off-the-rack Orientation Program may not suffice. The difference between keeping newly acquired talent or loosing valuable fresh employees can be assured through a properly implemented Orientation Program that is fitted to the organization and its distinct features.

Efficiently introducing new employees to the unique culture of the organization and avoiding the many pitfalls of failed orientation (including overwhelming, underwhelming, and an overload of forms) are some of the benefits of a customized Orientation Program, leading to successful hiring and lowering of early turnover costs.

Like a well-tailored suit, Orientation Program quality is found in both the material and the fit.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Radical Clarity Tip #2

The Quest for Clear Communication

Over the next while we will explore the topic of communication in the workplace.

I am a firm believer in the quest for Radial Clarity which to me means that the intended message that you are sending is received in the way you had planned. Additionally, Radical Clarity means that communication is not avoided. Even if the message is tough, communicate openly and honestly. Your reputation rides on your ability to communicate. There are no perfect communication styles or ones that are better than the other. You need to find your own “voice”. There are, however, helpful tips which can help. I will be sharing some of the easy ones that have worked for me.

Tip #2:
Make Time for Employees.
Regular, one-on-one meetings with your team members are important; if employees work remotely, meet by phone. If you can't meet weekly, do it at least twice a month. And don't take phone calls during meetings, unless it is an emergency. Show your employees they have your full attention. Talk about their career paths and how you envision them growing in their jobs. On the flip side, employees need to be aware of bosses' time pressures.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Radical Clarity Tip # 1

The Quest for Clear Communication

Over the next while we will explore the topic of communication in the workplace.

I am a firm believer in the quest for Radial Clarity which to me means that the intended message that you are sending is received in the way you had planned. Additionally, Radical Clarity means that communication is not avoided. Even if the message is tough, communicate openly and honestly. Your reputation rides on your ability to communicate. There are no perfect communication styles or ones that are better than the other. You need to find your own “voice”. There are, however, helpful tips which can help. I will be sharing some of the easy ones that have worked for me.

Tip #1
Active Listening

Listening is divided into two main categories: passive and active. Passive listening is little more that hearing. It occurs when the receiver of the message has little motivation to listen carefully, such as when listening to music, television, or when being polite. Active listening means fully engaging in what the other person is saying and truly hearing what they have to say.

The following are a few traits of active listeners:
o Spend more time listening than talking.
o Do not finish the sentences of others.
o Do not answer questions with questions.
o Are aware of biases. We all have them. We need to control them.
o Let the other speakers talk. Do not dominate the conversations.
o Plan responses after the others have finished speaking, NOT while they are speaking.
o Provide feedback, but do not interrupt incessantly.
o Analyze by looking at all the relevant factors and asking open-ended questions. Walk others through by summarizing.
o Keep conversations on what others say, NOT on what interests them.
o Take brief notes. This forces them to concentrate on what is being said.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Turning Around a Problem Employee

by Toni Bowers
Takeaway: If you have an employee with a productivity or attitude problem, the temptation is often just to write that employee off and get back to business. But before you take such a drastic step, you need to identify the problem and try to solve it.

An employee with performance problems is not just a manager’s problem. It’s a problem for the whole staff. Staff members can resent taking up the slack for a poor performer, and rightly so. Hostility and anger from a problem employee can permeate and infect the whole environment. Ungrounded cynicism can also spread to the rest of your staff, even your good performers.

For these reasons, it’s important that you take action with an employee who is exhibiting problems with productivity and behavior as soon as you detect there is a problem. Here are some of the best ways to approach this tricky issue.

Dealing with the problem
Try this six-step process when helping employees improve their performance. The steps are:

1. Describe the employee's specific performance issues
• Talk about the issues, not about the employee's poor effort
• Describe the results of the employee's performance.

2. Describe the expected standards of employee performance
• Be specific. Don't say you have a “poor” attitude; instead list specific occurrences that illustrate problematic behavior.

3. Determine the cause of the performance issues
• Does the employee lack training, skills, knowledge?
• Is there a lack of motivation, incentive?
• Are there external factors involved (family, financial, etc.)?
• Are there factors beyond the employee's control affecting the performance?

4. Ask the employee for solution(s)
• What could the employee do to improve this situation?

5. Discuss each solution with the employee
• How will this solution help with the employee's problem?
• Discuss your solution(s).
• Try to jointly improve upon the solutions.

6. Agree on specific actions to be done and a time frame to implement them
• Arrange for another meeting in the future to track the progress/results of the solution.

The best way to tackle performance issues early is to use a regular performance appraisal process. At the very least, conduct performance appraisals once a year. But it’s even better to conduct smaller evaluations every few months so that any information about performance problems doesn’t come as a surprise to the employee. Also, you can set performance goals at more frequent intervals and check more readily if they’re being met.

Effectively dealing with performance issues in an employee can be a long, intensive process. But it’s best to do it right.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Team Building and Delegation

Employee involvement is creating an environment in which people have an impact on decisions and actions that affect their jobs. Employee involvement is not the goal nor is it a tool, as practiced in many organizations. Rather, it is a management and leadership philosophy about how people are most enabled to contribute to continuous improvement and the ongoing success of their work organization.

Involve people as much as possible in all aspects of work decisions and planning. This involvement increases ownership and commitment, retains your best employees, and fosters an environment in which people choose to be motivated and contributing. It is also important for team building.

How to involve employees in decisionmaking and continuous improvement activities is the strategic aspect of involvement and can include such methods as suggestion systems, manufacturing cells, work teams, continuous improvement meetings, Kaizen (continuous improvement) events, corrective action processes and periodic discussions with the supervisor.

Intrinsic to most employee involvement processes is training in team effectiveness, communication, and problem solving; the development of reward and recognition systems; and frequently, the sharing of gains made through employee involvement efforts.

Employee Involvement Model

For people and organizations that desire a model to apply, the best I have discovered was developed from work by Tannenbaum and Schmidt (1958) and Sadler (1970). They provide a continuum for leadership and involvement that includes an increasing role for employees and a decreasing role for supervisors in the decision process. The continuum includes this progression.

Tell: the supervisor makes the decision and announces it to staff. The supervisor provides complete direction. Tell is useful when communicating about safety issues, government regulations and for decisions that neither require nor ask for employee input.
Sell: the supervisor makes the decision and then attempts to gain commitment from staff by "selling" the positive aspects of the decision. Sell is useful when employee commitment is needed, but the decision is not open to employee influence.

Consult: the supervisor invites input into a decision while retaining authority to make the final decision herself. The key to a successful consultation is to inform employees, on the front end of the discussion, that their input is needed, but that the supervisor is retaining the authority to make the final decision. This is the level of involvement that can create employee dissatisfaction most readily when this is not clear to the people providing input.

Join: the supervisor invites employees to make the decision with the supervisor. The supervisor considers his voice equal in the decision process. The key to a successful join is when the supervisor truly builds consensus around a decision and is willing to keep her influence equal to that of the others providing input.

Delegate: the supervisor turns the decision over to another party. The key to successful delegation is to always build a feedback loop and a timeline into the process. The supervisor must also share any "preconceived picture" he has of the anticipated outcome of the process.