Tag Archives: Best Places to Work

Webinar on Re-Engage

24 Jan

I recently conducted a webinar with Quantum Workplace on some of the main elements of our research into employee engagement. I talk about some important trends we see that you need to pay attention to and manage:

  • Employee engagement in difficult times,
  • The impact of generational diversity on employee engagement,
  • How organizational size impacts employee engagement,
  • Whether senior leaders can influence engagement, and
  • The changing role of employee benefits in creating a great workplace.

Diana: A Lesson in “Discretionary Effort”

23 Aug

The receptionist said: “You look lost.  Can I help you sir?”

I travel a lot for my work, and am often in foreign places where, in truth, I am lost. This was one of those days.

Lots of receptionists have seen the “gee-I-hope-I’m-in-the-right-place” look on the face of people they encounter. Some turn a blind eye to we directionally challenged people or, even worse, make us feel like we’re bothering them by asking for help. But on this particular occasion the receptionist, Diana, actually seemed concerned that I was lost.

“Thanks for asking. I’m supposed to be joining a meeting here, and I need to find my host”, I said.

To my surprise and delight Diana got up from behind her desk, smiled, and said: “The meeting is upstairs. Let me walk with you.”

As we were proceeding up the stairs she asked me where I was from and how long I would be in town. For an old road warrior like me such kindness is a true gift. As we neared the top of the stairs I saw my host. I thanked Diana and said goodbye, my day much the better for her efforts.

In our profession we talk a lot about “discretionary effort” as the critical outcome of a more engaged workplace. Here’s how a 2006 study conducted by The Conference Board describes employee engagement:

A heightened emotional and intellectual connection that an employee has for his/her job, organization, manager, or coworkers that in turn, influences him/her to apply additional discretionary effort to his/her work.

That term “discretionary effort” is descriptive, but feels a bit clinical to folks. Diana was showing the behaviors of an engaged employee. That’s why encounters like I had with her can serve as a reminder of what employee engagement is all about. Diana made several choices (discretionary effort) in her interaction with me—getting up from behind the desk and walking with me up the stairs with me is beyond what I had expected from our exchange.

By the way, the meeting I was attending was part of the leadership development program for an organization that had me as a guest speaker talking about —you guessed it— employee engagement. The organization is doing a lot of great things in building a more engaged workplace. I told the group of my encounter with Diana. They were pleased to know that their efforts to build on great place to work are making a difference.

Most workplaces have these moments, these glimpses, of an engaged employee making a difference for a customer or client, who show their appreciation by coming back often and telling their friends—the payoff for the efforts in engaging employees. Those whom we profile In Re-Engage are better at creating an environment where they happen far more frequently.

How are you managing to those moments?

Take Care of Employees and They’ll Take Care of Business

1 Jul

I love attending the local Best Places to Work events where companies are recognized for their efforts to create engaging work environments. They are celebrations of workplaces that have created the conditions where people choose to work hard, care deeply about their associates and customers, and employees have a commitment to stay and grow with their employer.

At one such event Microsoft was recognized as a Best Place to Work. They frequently appear on these local lists, and have often been tapped in the annual list published by Fortune magazine. As part of the description of why Microsoft made this local list it was noted that they were one of the first U.S. employers to offer a benefit where employees who have children diagnosed on the autism spectrum can receive early intervention therapy services to support their development.

Let me go on record here-I have a child with autism, and am very familiar with these services. Although they are widely recognized as helpful to children who suffer from autism (including an endorsement from the Surgeon General) they are not typically paid for by private insurance. Most families, including ours, pay for these services out-of-pocket. Having an employer like Microsoft fund these therapeutic services through their health insurance program is a tremendous benefit to families who have a child with this condition. (An article in the Seattle Business Journal offers more details about the benefit.)

I tip my hat to Microsoft for the efforts to help families like mine (and I hope you consider advocating for such a benefit where you work), but the other part of the story is this: Microsoft is listening to the needs of their employees and offering benefits to address those needs. They received numerous requests from employees, who told the company their stories and made their cases for why this would be an important benefit. And to their credit, the company responded.

In our research into the elements that drive highly engaged workplaces we note that an employer’s ability to support the well being of their employees is a key driver. It’s also one that has increased in importance over the last five years. We speak at length about this in chapter nine of our new book, Re-Engage as well as an article in the May, 2010 issue of workspan. Employees who believe their companies genuinely care about them and their families are more likely to be engaged, productive employees. In this case Microsoft saw value in funding autism services. For another company it might be a wellness benefit. In yet another company the employees may find additional support for continuing education to be of value.

What’s clear is this-employees will care more about work when they believe their employers cares about them.

Employee Stress: is it coming out sideways?

10 Jan

A gentleman I know in town is a counselor who has developed a practice working with veterans suffering from Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Being a vet himself, he understands some of what these heroic soldiers are going through. Over time he helps them find a voice for their feelings, knowing that talking through these issues can support their healing. He told me once: “Mark, my job is to help them get these feelings out in the open. All that stuff is bottled up in there, and it’s going to come out. It can come out in a productive way, or it can come out sideways– either way, it’s going to come out.”

Our employees may not be in harms way like the soldiers my friend helps, but we can gain insight from his approach to helping them deal with their stress.  Like him, we can acknowledge two things– that our employees are stressed, and that one way or another it’s going to come out.

  • What can we do to help our team members express their concerns about this current economic crisis in a productive way?
  • With whom can we help them connect?
  • What do we need to do to help our supervisors be more effective at listening to the needs of their employees?

As we continue to work through these difficult economic times let’s work to help stress from “coming out sideways”.

Employee Engagement And Well Being– Two Sides Of The Same Coin

26 Feb

Consultant News has published a research study by Hewitt that shows yet additional evidence that well being and employee engagment may be two sides of the same coin– very much linked together:

“Research carried out in conjunction with the 2009 Best Employers in Canada study has established that highly engaged employees experience better health and overall well-being. This finding reinforces the benefits for both employers and employees of increasing employee engagement, according to Hewitt Associates, the global human resources consulting and outsourcing company that conducts the annual study.

“The 115,000 employees surveyed as part of the 2009 study clearly revealed that high engagement goes hand-in-hand with better health and well-being,” said Neil Crawford, leader of Hewitt’s Best Employers in Canada study. “Employees at organizations with high engagement reported better physical health, lower job stress and work overload, and greater financial security. In addition, they also believe that their employer’s benefits plan contributes to their overall well-being, although there is room for improvement with respect to retirement savings programs.”

I read of the governmental plans to “reform” our health care, which is all fine and well. But perhaps the most important reform we can make would be to create better workplaces which, amongst other things, cares about the health and well being of employees. According to this study this may be, as they say, exactly what the doctor ordered.

Southwest Airlines– Let’s Listen And Learn

25 Feb

This video is twenty-five minutes long, but worth your time. Southwest’s long-time president “schoolin us”…

The ROI of Employee Engagement

5 Feb
Yet another study showing that more engaged employers enjoy financial rewards was reported by the web site Knowledge @ Wharton. The paper, which is available to download, reports:

In a paper titled, “Does the Stock Market Fully Value Intangibles? Employee Satisfaction and Equity Prices,” (Wharton finance professor Alex) Edmans examines the stock returns of companies with high employee satisfaction and compares them to various benchmarks — the broader market, peer firms in the same industry, and companies with similar characteristics. His research indicates that firms cited as good places to work earn returns that are more than double those of the overall market.

Companies on Fortune magazine’s annual list of the “100 Best Companies to Work for in America” between 1998 and 2005 returned 14% per year, compared to 6% a year for the overall market, according to Edmans. The results also hold up using an earlier version of the survey that dates back to 1984. “One might think this is an obvious relationship — that you don’t need to do a study showing that if workers are happy, the company performs better. But actually, it’s not that obvious,” says Edmans. “Traditional management theory treats workers like any other input — get as much out of them as possible and pay them as little as you can get away with.”

This study corroborates our own research, as well as twenty-seven other studies we’ve collected over the years for our book Lucky To Work Here. If you would like a copy of a bibliography of those studies, please email at markhirschfeld@gmail.com— I’d be happy to send it to you.

The evidence is now clear– there is a business imperative to creating a more engaged workplaces. Let’s get to work!

“He’s Been Sleeping On The Job Longer”– Unfair Pay

5 Feb


I just had a conversation with a client who was trying to address a high level of unfavorable ratings in their annual engagement survey to employee perceptions of “fair pay”. It’s a question that frequently does poorly, but the scores were particularly low here.

There are instances when perceptions of “fair pay” relate to external equity– employees are upset that others down the street at another company are making more than they do in similar jobs. But more often I’ve seen more significant problems with internal equity– that employees see marked differences in pay amongst peers. Often the perception of internal inequity can be summed up by a comment I heard from an employee:

That guy in our department has been around forever. I’m just getting started here, but I’m working twice as hard as he is. He’s been sleeping on the job for a long time, but because he has more tenure he’s paid more. That’s just not fair.

No, it’s not fair. More importantly, that perception led this employee, and many others, to report lower levels of engagement in many other areas. Said another way, employee perceptions of unfair pay impact overall employee engagement.


  • Are there areas where internal inequity in compensation exist in your place of work?
  • In some cases, are poor performers getting paid more just becuase they have more tenure and, if so, what can be done to address their lack of performance?

Winning Employee Wellness and Engagement, From My Hometown

2 Feb

 Here’s a report about a group called  Simply Well from Omaha, Nebraska that is doing outstanding work in helping employees take greater responsibility for their own health and, in doing so, enjoying the benefit of increased employee engagement. The article features a local company:

The case study featured was the Greater Omaha Packing Company, Inc. (GOP). GOP has annual sales of nearly $1 billion and is ranked 5th in beef processing nationally. Since implementing simplyWell in 2001, GOP has experienced significant improvement in employee engagement as well as measurable clinical improvement.

Founder and President of simplyWell, james T. canedy, MD, attributed the group’s success to giving employees the right information at the right time as it relates to their health.

“By engaging patients in their own health and providing them the appropriate tools, they can manage their health more effectively,” said Dr. canedy. “Our studies show that a higher engagement rate in one’s health drives a trend of decreasing risk and cost. That is what simplyWell focuses on”.

This results is very much in keeping with our studies of outstanding workplaces– a committment to employee well being is a significant driver of employee engagement.


  • Are you actively working to improve your well-care efforts?
  • What benefits could you experience with a greater emphasis on “health care”, instead of simply diagnosing and treating disease?

The Three Year Itch

1 Feb

We’ve all heard about the seven-year itch, right? I’ve noticed a trend with several employee engagement surveys I’ve recently reviewed, where the itch starts a bit earlier.

What I’ve often noticed is that employee engagement is solid for new employees and is good once employees have been with the organization for five or more years. But there is a dip in the two to four year tenure, where employees appear to be getting the “itch”, less engaged and committed to their employer.

With one company the “itch” started because many employees in that tenure group didn’t see career opportunities. In another employer the dip was related to less support received after the first year filled with lots of training and support. In another the problem was an internal posting process that made it difficult for employees to move across company “stove pipes”.


  • Do our 2-4 year tenure employees shows signs of the “itch”?
  • If so, what we can do to re-engage them?
  • Are there internal obstacles we must address that will help us maintain high levels of engagement with this group?