Tag: Employee Communication

HRInsights’ Weekly Lightbulb 10/21

This Week’s HRI “Lightbulb”  – Feedback

Ever ask for feedback?  It’s not human nature, but try it out with another employee who works for you or who you don’t know that well.  You may actually learn something important.  Go on!  Try it once every couple of weeks.  I don’t have the scads of research in front of me, but just asking for feedback also builds employee loyalty (in addition to them doing a more committed job).

Government Help? A Different Twist!

Occupational Safety & Health AdministrationLet’s face it, few small business owners rarely smile when confronted with the acronym OSHA.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration conjure up scary thoughts for owners thinking unnecessary regulations and oversight into our businesses.  Various state regulation agencies offer similar ill feelings.

But, any successful enterprise does want a safe and healthy work environment where employees flourish.  There is no debate that the merits of a hard working and dedicated staff outweigh the problems with an organization that is unhappy and working against your goals.

There are many free services and benefits that the government offers small business entrepreneurs to help with organizational effectiveness.

  • OSHA provides free on-site consultations to help small and medium sized businesses identify risks in their workplace and give advice on compliance to OSHA standards.  These consultations are not enforcement visits.  In fact, OSHA consultants will not issue citations or report potential violations to enforcement staff.  Learn more here.
  • If your organization operates within the health care or construction industries, OSHA has developed specific modules and guidance that apply to your workplace.  Visit the Compliance Assistance Quick Start for the construction industry and the health care industry.  OSHA also provides a general industry module, which can be found here.
  • OSHA also provides advice and guidelines for organizations working with Hispanic employees.  Here you can find dictionaries, training opportunities, key OSHA publications in Spanish, and Spanish speaking workplace-safety videos.

We just thought it might be a good idea for you to be aware of the potential valuable insights available to you from organizations such as OSHA.  Explore the OSHA small business page for more ideas that may be helpful to your organization.

What Fans & Groupies Mean to Your Organization

A few weeks ago I saw one of my favorite bands, Guster, in concert.  Guster is an alternative rock band (known for using bongos instead of drums) – I’ve seen them live three times now and own all of their cd’s.  Needless to say, I’m a fan.  But I’m not just a fan who likes to listen to their music; I’m kind of a groupie.  I’ve followed the band from the beginning and I’ve enjoyed, respected and defended every piece of music they’ve created.  They’ve evolved as artists and have gotten quite a bit of flack from ex-fans because of it, but I respect their growth and everything they’ve done has really resonated with me.

People aren’t just fans of singers and bands, though.  They’re fans of stores, facebook pages, brands, designers, companies, products, political leaders – you name it, someone has probably said, “I’m a fan of that.”  In fact, the term is used so loosely these days that it may become obsolete.  But as fandom dwindles in importance, groupies become more revered.  It’s not enough to just be a fan.  In the music world, a fan is someone who illegally downloads songs, goes to an occasional concert, and knows, from the entire discography, only a handful of songs.  These are people not truly dedicated – they have outside interests and loyalties and can sometimes jump ship if they no longer agree with the object of their fandom.

If we establish fans and groupies in so many other aspects of our lives, I started wondering if we are proactively seeking out fans and groupies in our employees.  Management and HR strive to keep their people motivated and engaged in their jobs and the company.  Do we differentiate between fans and groupies in the office?

Fans are great employees.  They meet and exceed expectations on a regular basis and are excited to be a part of the company.  Groupies are better.   As in the music-world, they go above and beyond every single day to live their passion for the company and it’s mission.  Groupies will work late and on the weekends without being asked, will enthusiastically contribute to all discussions and won’t fudge their expense reports.  Most importantly, a groupie BELIEVES and is dedicated to the overall growth and intent of the company – they drink the kool-aid (see #2).  Fans, on the other hand, will tote the “company line” and may go through periods of disenfranchisement.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and I think for many people there are times when they’re a groupie and other times when they’re a fan.  It’s an ebb and flow, cyclical process. But from the company’s perspective, it’s about catching their employees at varying points of the cyclical process.

Companies should cultivate their groupies into positions of leadership, encouraging them to infect colleagues with their energy and enthusiasm.  Companies should also have open channels of communication with their fans, discerning what is stopping them from being a froth-at-the-mouth, wake up at 4 am to do work every day, talk about it at a cocktail party, groupie.  For that matter, they should also have these discussions with groupies, “why are you so crazy about our company?”  These conversations can enlighten all parties into how employees can be more efficient and motivated in their day-to-day jobs and how management can build a more energetic corporate culture, more compelling products and services, and a stronger long-term growth strategy.

So, who are your fans?  Who are your groupies?

More on Pick up the Phone Already!

Still thinking about the continued rise of email/text vs. live personal interaction. My point in these blogs isn’t to demonize the technology because I am a huge proponent. I have personally been involved in the technology industry for over 20 years. The efficiencies and speed they have added to business are undeniable, but they have their place. They are not a replacement for good (sometimes uncomfortable) human interaction. And there are people that use email/text to avoid engaging with people live. While this condition is likely the primary driver for the folks that send those emotionally charged emails I wrote about previously, it’s also awful tempting to use email and text to replace communication with someone who talks endlessly, has a negative attitude or is continuously critical. Even worse, with Caller ID we can “ignore” those that actually pick-up the phone to make contact with US. We can use our digital tools to respond rather than calling them back.

I must admit that I am no prince and have, on occasion, used email or text for just these reasons. I always feel guilty and force myself to reach out to the individual to handle the situation more appropriately. It blows me away when I get an email from someone down the hall or in the next office that isn’t a doc exchange or mtg request (appropriate uses of email). They can’t come see me? Usually, I just get up and go to their office. Hopefully, I am not someone they are trying to avoid!!

I think it is fair to say that every organization needs to communicate effectively in order to be successful. Email (and social media for that matter) has a place in a company’s communication fabric but can’t be a dominant method. There are a number of companies that are addressing the issue of out of hand email and doing something about it. This article from the WSJ, Email Backlash Builds, shares the efforts of a couple companies to have their employees better engage with their co-workers by walking away from email (at least for a little while) and picking up the phone or walking down the hall.

How is the quality of communication in your business? Personally, where do you fit? Are you an avoider? Are people avoiding you?

Pick Up The Phone Already! When Email & Texting Backfires

I read an article in the Chicago Tribune this AM about how digital communication (texting) is dominating voice communication. With two teenage girls, this revelation wasn’t too surprising and it got me thinking about how we communicate in the business world. While I have worked most of my career in technology-oriented businesses and love the benefits innovations in tech provide, there are some things about this overwhelming move to digital communication that bug me.

The first offenders are the people who use email and texting for “emotionally charged” communication. If the communication is personal in nature (ie a disagreement, disappointment, anger, performance issues, etc), an email message or text is just wrong. If you can’t meet with the individual in-person, use video chat or a phone call to share your feelings. There have been too many times in my career when I have received an email and can’t fathom why the author didn’t pick up the phone or come to my office. Well, I guess I can fathom it. Most of us don’t enjoy confrontation or uncomfortable discussions and believe that an email is an easier way to go. Not so much. In the end, it almost always comes down to a confrontation anyway.

Take this recent example, How Not To Handle A Resignation Gracefully from TechCrunch that I tweeted yesterday AM. An employee resigns via email and a boss responds negatively, also by email. Let the paper trail begin. While it is appropriate to put a resignation in writing, the right approach is to schedule a discussion with the boss at the time of delivering notice. It’s not too hard to believe that the boss, Jason Calacanis of Mahalo, responded to unprofessionalism with even more unprofessionalism. It’s not pretty. But here’s the reality, when sending emotional emails and texts, you can almost guarantee these notes will be forwarded to others, extending the damage – an outcome that is practically obsolete when you pick up the phone or step into someone’s office instead. In this case, it’s all over the web.

As an update to the drama and an explanation, if not an apology for his actions, Calacanis said in a blog this morning, “no one is perfect” and sometimes “I say something brutally honest without regard to my reputation or the other person’s feelings. There’s no reason to make the kid feel bad on the way out when I could have just said ‘Good luck, we will miss you greatly!’” He also included a great list of pointers on “How to Resign” that everyone thinking about texting their boss about a new job offer should definitely read closely.

Sherron Watkins’ 10-80-10

Last Thursday morning, I went to a gathering at Roosevelt University to hear Sherron Watkins answer questions from a gathering of students and business people. In case you are not familiar with the name, Sherron Watkins is the woman who exposed the wrong doings at Enron. As a VP in Andy Fastow’s group, she notified Ken Lay, Enron’s CEO, of Fastow’s fraudulent activities. Though Lay didn’t investigate the claims in Watkin’s letter, the letter was ultimately uncovered by the government and provided the impetus for their actions against Enron. I was impressed with Ms. Watkins. Smart and Insightful. Uncomfortable with the whistleblower label. She had a number of interesting comments. Of particular interest was her answer to the question of how such egregious behavior could exist in a business. She believes that such behavior primarily comes from faulty compensation policy. She commented that if you divided the people in the room into groups, 10% would always do the right thing no matter what, 10% are likely to be ethically challenged from the get go and 80% could go either way depending on their compensation plan, direction from a superior or recognition that everyone else is doing it so it must be ok. Watkins’ observations should get us thinking (and acting):

- Do I have an ethically challenged 10% in my group?
- Is my culture tempting the 80% to do questionable things? Will they self-police?
- Are my expectations for behavior and performance clear? Is it documented so there is no doubt? Do I communicate it and live it?
- Is my compensation plan and policy consistent with the behavior I want?

In 2004, Ms. Watkins was interviewed for the documentary, “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”. She was asked if what happened at Enron would happen again. There was no doubt in her mind. As the details continue to rollout on our mortgage mess (some coming out yet this AM), it sure smells like Enron like behavior was at play. I’m wondering was it some of the 80% or just the 10%? What do you think?

Roll Up Your Sleeves!

I just couldn’t resist blogging about “Undercover Boss,” the new television reality show where top executives from companies go to the frontline, undercover, and perform entry-level jobs.

The first episode was really good. The COO changed various operational items based on what he had experienced. However, my enthusiasm faded after the second and third episode. This could be the result of “Reality TV,” but it seemed like the other episodes resulted in the executives giving away vacations and promotions to the employees they met. That changes the dynamic and purpose of the show. It leaves the viewer anticipating “What is he going to do for that employee?” versus “What is he going to change operationally to avoid this situation in the future?” For example, the Hooters and 7-11 CEOs gave away a vacation to each of their employees. This was very generous, but not necessary. The 7-11 CEO heard from one of his store night managers that they didn’t feel there were any other opportunities within the organization and the job was a dead end! After the undercover “operation,” the employee was promoted and moved into another position. Nothing was said about how the Company addressed the issue of communicating career opportunities to the stores! I would be more interested in how to impact thousands of employees rather than just one.

I did see some “snip-its” at the end of the show about the employees participating in some corporate efforts, but it seemed to be more afterthought and certainly not a highlight. Again, this is probably a result of a “Reality TV” production rather than a business lesson.

Employees LOVE to tell you about and show you their jobs. However, if you engage in this, you need to be ready to take action that will impact the majority and not just appease an individual. At minimum, you will need to respond to what you have seen even if you can’t give the employees what they want. Don’t ignore the issues but rather acknowledge them and engage your people to create and participate in change.

Perhaps it is time you “roll up your sleeves!”