Category Archives: Employee Engagement

Farewell Smith Guttridge & Associates

waving_goodbye_oval_sign_PA_500_wht_4550I’ve decided it’s time to hang up my laptop and take a well-earned break from work.

Working with associates at Smith Guttridge has been wonderful; such a buzz working with creative, passionate people who all believed in doing the very best they could for clients (and helping each other at the same time).

So I’ll be spending more time on my music project, photography and family (not necessarily in that order).

I’ll still be writing my Bizpsycho blog over at bizpsycho.com as well as other lifestyle stuff.

I’m planning to transfer some of the posts from here to Bizpsycho and leave this blog up until the registration expires.

So thanks to everyone who took the trouble to read this. My blog was read in 111 countries but primarily in the USA, the UK, and Spain.

But thank you those readers from Papua New Guinea, Uzbekistan, Iceland, Moldova, Qatar, Guernsey, Luxemburg, Afghanistan, Macao, Tanzania and Kyrgyzstan among others.

Truly an international readership. Any blogger will tell you how much they appreciate an audience.

 

 

Too many e-mails plus bad management stressing out staff

laptop_mail_PA_500_wht_2109Professor Sir Cary Cooper has hit out at the avalanche of e-mails most workers now suffer from at work.

In a speech at the British Psychology Conference in Liverpool he said UK productivity was the second lowest in the G7 group of nations (20% below the average and 40% below the USA) which he believed was due to our embracing technology “too enthusiastically”.

He thinks companies should shut down their servers to discourage employees from checking e-mails in the evening and at weekends and especially when on holiday – which he described as sick. (Some companies are already doing this in Germany).

He would like to ban in-house e-mails between members of staff in favour of face-2-face communication and thought c.c. e-mails a waste of time.

He thinks too may people are just showing up for work (“Presenteeism“) but not doing anything productive.

Research at the University of Sussex confirms that when when staff are given company smartphones they put in an extra day a week checking and responding to e-mails.

Experts say that there may be help round the corner from even newer technology such as Slack and Yammer which provide an open stream of communications not requiring you to open e-mails. (Is that really an improvement?)

employee_diciplined_1600_wht_5635But it’s not all down to the technology. British managers are notoriously poor at praising and encouraging staff. Cooper likens a good boss to a parent figure balancing criticism and praise.

However UK employees don’t have to wait long to be criticised in his view but they can wait a long time to get any praise for good work. And that could be a problem with younger workers who expect praise and good treatment at work.

 

Empathy in business

phone_talk_bubble_1600_wht_12346A survey by a campaigning agency aimed at improving women’s access to technology has identified the worst and best companies on its “empathy index”.

The empathy index scored 100 companies on the way they treat both staff and customers by using a poll of 1,000 members of the public, on-line feedback from 25 employees from each company, and an analysis of a company’s last 100 tweets.

The telecoms industries came out the worst with the big four companies in the bottom 10 on their empathy ratings.

RyanAir, Carphone Warehouse and BT have been labelled as the companies that never listen. Carphone Warehouse was accused of “giving retail a bad name” with customers facing  “nauseating hard sells from teenagers” and queues reminiscent of Soviet Russia.

Twitter has more than 500 million users but came 8th from bottom and was criticised as ” a textbook example of how not engage on social networks” because of its robotic, boring and repetitive messages (which I’ve tweeted about before).

Selfridges came out 87th. Apparently the satisfaction you get as a customer is not matched by the experience of working there. “All glamour but no empathy”.

Pret a Manger came in about half-way with an “at best mediocre” scores on customer satisfaction and employee relations.

They found that the most empathetic companies in Britain were LinkedIn and Microsoft. Both were praised for making customers and employees feel valued and for resolving consumer problems within seconds on twitter.

However other technology companies fared less well. Facebook, with more than 1 billion users, only achieved 48th place and was described as “the brand that was too big to listen”. Staff working for Facebook, and twitter, described them as providing good career opportunities and work-life balance.

Amazon, the world’s biggest retailer, was just the opposite. Customers love it but its employees hate it.

And Apple only made 43rd place and was accused of “refusing to engage” on social media.

John Lewis came 5th even though it ignores criticism on social media. Other companies in the top 10 include Audi, Three, Sony, Google, Nike, Direct Line, and Boots. 

Stuck in the bottom quartile were all the main banks with RSB being branded “the least trusted bank in the UK“. Lloyds bank employees “believe they have limited career opportunities” and Barclays has  “a very poor perception among customers“. Well no wonder is it after their behaviour in recent years.

HSBC however came out in 22nd position and was named the most empathetic bank.

 

Using technology to predict leavers

pulled_in_two_directions_1600_wht_3783Once upon a time it was thought that employees who started taking more shirt-term absences from work were possibly thinking of leaving.

It was assumed that they were bored, disaffected, or going for interviews. When jobs were plentiful this group of employees were more likely to leave sooner rather than later. When jobs were scarce they hung on being disruptive through their absences.

Now, according to a report in The Times, companies such as Joberate are developing software using so-called “big data” to help them predict which employees are unhappy and likely to leave.

Indicators include opening a LinkedIn account, or spending Friday afternoons on twitter following other companies, or looking at job postings on FaceBook. But the state of the recruitment market and company performance can also be factored in.

Joberate compares an employee’s social media activity with a previous base-line and when it changes can notify the company, or a head-hunter, of the possibility that this person might be in the job market.

All the data they use is publicly accessible so can be accessed without the individual’s permission. Perhaps a stark reminder of being careful about what you put in the pubic domain.

However another software programme Workday uses internal company data such as promotions, management decisions, job cuts and satisfaction surveys.

Companies apparently think that once they have identified employees who might be at risk of moving they can intervene and persuade them to stay.

I’m not so sure. Once people start on activities such as LinkedIn job profiles they are already distancing themselves psychologically from their organisation (and probably more likely to take time off).

And usually people leave because of a poor relationship with their immediate boss.

One piece of research based on 32,000 Fortune 100 companies found that from the time an employee had a bad meeting with their boss it took only three months for that person to resign.

My most read business posts in 2014

dscf1285.jpgOnce again the techies at WordPress provide me with an annual report with lots if statistics. They remind me I posted a measly 47 posts last year, and some of them I re-blogged – so thank you bloggers who allowed me to do that.

My blog is now read in 111 countries but primarily in the USA, the UK, and Spain. But thank you those readers from Papua New Guinea,  Uzbekistan, Iceland, Moldova, Qatar, Guernsey, Luxemburg, Afghanistan, Macao, Tanzania and Krygystan among others. Truly an international readership.

The top ten posts were:

1st : Stress back on the agenda? This was 4th last year and in the top spot in 2012

2nd: Teams and Diversity not so simple which was in 5th spot last year

3rd: Women are the winners at work which was in top spot last year

4th: Saying thank you makes good business sense a jump from 16th place last year

5th: Leadership & Influencing and even bigger jump from 21st spot last year

6th: No-one wants to be rated as average This was 3rd last year and in 2nd spot in both 2011 & 2012 – obviously I struck a chord with it.

7th: Erotic Capital – boobs, botox and making the most of yourself a slight drop from 6th spot last year

8th: Rude, arrogant and powerful up from 11th spot last year

9th: Leaders without any shame jointly with Leadership capabilities necessary for a successful merger

10th: Women in Leadership – too nice? Too bossy?

For the second year my most-read posts have been from earlier years with only those in bottom three places from 2014. This probably reflects the paucity of my output in 2014. So must try harder!

My most read posts in 2013

Older workers don’t want to retire

relaxed manthey want to work part-time.

Half of workers approaching retirement intend to carry on working into their mid-sixties according to the government’s  older workers’ champion Ros  Altmann (didn’t know we had one but could she have had a more appropriate surname?)

Almost all the over-50s who planned to keep on working wanted to ease themselves into part-time jobs rather than suddenly stop working altogether,

Ms Altmann said employers’ attitudes “would have to change, with training for older workers imperative so that they could keep up with technological and other workplace changes”

Most of those approaching retirement didn’t realise that they wouldn’t have to pay National Insurance contributions if they carried on working after pension age.

People are being more flexible about when they retire – or can afford to retire – and later-life working is becoming more important.

Originally the Old Age Pension was paid at age 70 when it was introduced in 1908. Pensionable age dropped to 65 in 1925 and it wasn’t until 1940 that a woman could get her pension when she reached 60. Now pension age is creeping up again and people will collect their pensions at 66 until 2020 when the age threshold rises to 67.

Although the default retirement age no longer exists many workers feel that they were expected to go at 65. Many over-50s feel less well thought of than younger workers and 15% had experienced age-related discrimination in the workplace.

In Germany some companies have gone to great lengths to accommodate the needs of older workers e.g. at BMW

 

 

When did you last ask for a pay rise?

shaking_figure_for_money_anim_500_wht_12913It appears that 50% of UK workers have never asked for a pay rise.

54% of working adults feel that they are not paid enough and half of these know other companies in their industry pay  more – but that doesn’t mean they will necessarily be asking for a pay rise.

It seems that we Brits are uncomfortable talking about money. Some people they don’t ask because they don’t want to appear ungrateful and others say they don’t want to spoil the relationship they have with their boss.

About 1 in 5 say they would be worried about losing their job if they asked for more and another 1 in 5 said they were too nervous to ask.

Even though 1 in 3 knew their colleagues were paid more for doing the same job only 1 in 3 of this group felt confident enough to ask for more money.

The data comes from a survey by Slater & Gordon, an employment law company, which asked 2,000 working Brits about how fairly they thought their employers treated them.

Not very fairly overall it would seem!

The newly appointed  “wellbeing Czar“, Lord O’Donnell, said that saying “thank you” and giving staff more autonomy could make them happier than giving them a pay rise.

Which is probably true but it doesn’t pay the rent for employees who have suffered from static pay since the start of the recession in 2008.

And it’s not only employees in the UK. One in six Germans is at risk of poverty because they earn so little. And this in the powerhouse of the EU. Although unemployment is among the lowest in the EU the economy is run by part-time workers in “Mini jobs” created by the previous chancellor.

About 13 million Germans earn less than €12,000, 60% of the national average. The chairman of Germany’s Welfare Equality Association blames the “Americanisation” of jobs i.e. low-paid and often temporary.

In the UK the voluntary “living wage” has just been increased to £7.85 an hour (£9.15 in London). This is the amount considered necessary to meet basic living costs and is supported by about 1,000 employers.

Even so about a quarter of the working population still earn less than the living wage and organisations like the IoD and the FSB aren’t particularly positive about the idea of helping people earn a decent income.

NB The current statutory minimum wage is £6.50 an hour for adults.

 

Hierarchical Management – a reprise

down_the_chain_1600_wht_5908Employers who want peak performance from their employees might do better by ensuring that they have a strong but fair hierarchy in place.

Aaron Kay at Fuqua Management School of Business at Duke University, Carolina,  thinks leaders should worry less about empowerment and equality.

He says “In organisations there is a move to become flat but that is not always the best thingy you want to keep employees working hard”.

“People may say that they want to work in an egalitarian workplace but sometimes they actually function better in a hierarchy” regardless of where they sit in the organisation.

It’s not  just that a hierarchy offers more chance of promotion – although some staff will appreciate seeing a ladder to climb – but that hierarchies offer staff a sense of order and structure which they like.

When times are turbulent and external circumstances reduce their sense of control preference for hierarchies increases. Kay says “People seek out guidance and leaders”  And a  hierarchy helps them feel that they are in a safe, stable environment … where they can predict the outcome of their behaviours.

His research also suggests that a strong hierarchy helps people feel that they are being more effective in tackling long-term goals. “If you lead an organisation where you need employees to work on long-term projects, committed to long-term goals, it’s tempting to think that if you give them autonomy they will be more interested and it will drive the right behaviour”.

But as he points out long-term goals are hard to achieve and people need to forgo immediate reward to focus on something way off in the future. They have to trust the system. Having a clear structure and a hierarchy reassures employees that things won’t change before they complete the task.

Hierarchy might also be better for complex tasks where each person needs to complete their part exactly as it is specified. This doesn’t necessarily mean managers should adopt a directive or autocratic approach. Employees obviously like to know where they stand but managers shouldn’t lord it over them and be open to new ideas.

Other experts disagree. One said  ‘it’s naive to think that structures always work the way they were intended”. In some organisations employees feel that although there is a structure and the rules are fair, they are not always applied fairly.

It seems to depend on whether or not you can trust the leaders and managers to be fair and whether or not the rules change as you are working.

See also my earlier post on this topic. 

Flexible working not popular with everybody

geek_icon_1600_wht_9297Flexible working seems to be on the increase, desired by many workers, and even welcomed by many employers.

However it seems that many Generation Y (those born between 1980s and early 1990s) employees think people who work flexibly are not as committed to their jobs as those who work from the office every day.

At least according to a survey by a company of employment solicitors.

They found that while Generation Y employees were quick to complain about discrimination they were also more likely to display hostile attitudes towards equality policies.

The report said it reinforced the reputation of these younger workers as being “awkward” and “difficult to manage“.

It does seem a paradox that these Generation Y employees, who love their technology (ideal for flexible working) and work-life balance are so disapproving.