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Wednesday, 20 November 2013

What Impact Does Engagement Have?

Posted by My Own Coach Ltd on 10:00 with No comments
What's the difference between an employee engagement score of 80% and one of 87%?

On the surface of it, this seems a daft question. One simple answer would be "seven percentile points", but that would be a little flippant! 

Most will recognise that a score of 87% is better than 80%, but by how much and how is this quantified?

As HR director for a global business, a client of mine was setting her sights on moving employee engagement to an ambitious 87%. I was curious to find out why 87% had been chosen.

The answer I received was more about benchmarking with other similar businesses and very little to do with the impact 87% would have on business results.

So, how come engagement scores have become so important for organisations without truly understanding the impact on performance? Is it another fad, a box to be ticked, or simply to draw comfort from the comparison with others?

On one level, I am okay with this. After all, the comparison against previous engagement scores and benchmarking with industry levels makes sense and is good practice. However, I would be a bigger fan if organisations really understood the difference between 86%, 87% and 88%.

It reminds me of the time I was responsible for customer service for a well known UK retailer. We were having a debate on customer satisfaction scores and aiming to raise them. What we couldn't establish was the outcome we would achieve by raising a score of 4.1 to 4.5, on a simple 1 to 5 scale.

To attempt to answer this, I engaged a marketing company to establish the link between satisfaction scores with future customer buying behaviour. The results were very interesting, as we found there was very little difference between the scores of 4.3 and 4.7. Beyond that, there was very little impact on propensity to buy - in other words, customers would not necessarily purchase more with a score of 5.0 as opposed to 4.7!

These insights led us to establish our target with a clearer understanding of the impact it may have on business performance.

It also made us realise that we had confused the measure with the aim, focussing our attention on the wrong thing.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

What Are You Asking People To 'Engage' With?

Posted by My Own Coach Ltd on 10:00 with No comments
More organisations than ever are investing huge amounts of time and money to improve employee engagement, with no clear understanding on their return.

This is down to the lack of clarity on what they want employees to engage with and the impact this has on business performance.

Most leaders would accept that engagement is not solely about the money people earn, the bonuses they receive or the incentives they are given. Equally, most fail to recognise that it is about the values, beliefs, and behaviors that create the culture.

So, ask yourself the fundamental questions: 

  • "what do you want your employees to engage with", and
  • "what impact on business performance will this engagement have?"
Once you have answered these, then you can ask the questions to establish the extent of engagement, and identify changes in culture knowing the impact you can expect as a result.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Do Stories Have To Be True?

Posted by My Own Coach Ltd on 11:37 with No comments
At this time of year, my grandfather always comes to mind and one particular story that will live on in my family's memory. 

However, this story may not be all true...

As I grew up, I recall my grandfather William to be a rather stern man with strong principles. Frankly, I was a little afraid of him at times, yet also in awe of his deeds. As with many others of his time, he won a medal for bravery in the first world war and this held a special place in my imagination as a young boy. 

At that time, I knew that he had held off an enemy advance armed only with a machine gun, whilst his comrades made a retreat. He saved many lives in this act of heroism.

This was the story I grew up with and, like most stories, I had no idea who had first told me it and never questioned it's validity. Why on earth would I?

In later years, I learned that this was only part of the story. For after my grandfather passed away, my father uncovered a new twist to the story as he learned that William had been a conscientious objector. His strong religious beliefs and the influence of a particular pastor in his early life, led him to take a non-combatant role, in his case a stretcher bearer.

So a new story developed to replace my boyhood one. One in which William threw down the stretcher in the heat of battle and pick up arms to save his fellow soldiers. Perhaps it appealed to my beliefs and values or simply to the age I had reached, but this story seemed so much more powerful.

He became even more of a hero, to both me and my young daughter.

A number of years passed by, and the two of us were visiting my parents at their home on the south coast. We were chatting and reminiscing as children and grandchildren do when with parents and grandparents, and we started to recall the story of William's heroism.

"That's not how it happened!" my dad suddenly exclaimed. "Yes, he was a stretcher bearer, but he didn't pick up arms in the heat of battle." My father went on to explain that Field marshall Haig had sent a request to all non-combatants to take up arms ahead of the battle and grandad did just that.

In unison, my daughter and I both exclaimed "we prefer our story.

The appeal of our version outweighed what may have been the truth. So, does that mean that the truth doesn't matter? 

Surely, stories have to be true and accurate, don't they? After all, we strive for truth, the right answers, all the time?

Well, I'm not so sure. Maybe the truly great stories are grounded in truth, yet shaped by our imagination and our own sense of 'right'.

In loving memory of William Watson, a truly wonderful man.

Monday, 21 October 2013

4 Key Leadership Characteristics

Posted by My Own Coach Ltd on 20:47 with No comments
There has been a lot written about the difference between managing and leading over the years. I particularly like the four important characteristics of leadership taken from the work by James Kouze & Barry Posner, summarised here as:
  • Honest: leaders are expected to be truthful, ethical and act in a principled manner. In order to gain trust, their words and behaviour need to be consistent. 
  • Competent: leaders must be credible and capable of carrying out what they are responsible for in order for people to follow them. 
  • Forward Looking: leaders must be concerned with the long term, clearly setting, communicating and steering direction. 
  • Inspirational: people follow those who are passionate, energetic and real, inspiring us with their confidence and 'can do' attitude 
Do you consider yourself a leader, or are you a manager? Then, how do you measure up to these?

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

A Gentle Influence Will Shape Behaviour

Posted by My Own Coach Ltd on 13:07 with No comments
As I was walking between appointments yesterday, I came across two great examples of where behaviour was gently being influenced.

The first was on the escalators. I'm sure that regular travelers around London will be familiar with the "keep to the right" signs found on almost every escalator on the subway. I'm equally sure that those same travelers will have noticed (and even been frustrated!) by the people that simply don't see the signs or choose to ignore them, blocking the path of others from walking up or down.

So it was a breath of fresh air to see these signs had not been used on the set of escalators in the retail concourse of St Pancras. Instead, someone, somewhere had the brilliant idea of replacing them with a set of footprints. I watched for a while, smiling to myself whilst people naturally moved to the right as this subconscious cue came into play. It reminded me of the video clip that was featured on this blog some time ago, of a staircase in the Stockholm subway that was transformed into a set of piano keys to encourage people to walk up them.

On piano keys...the second example I noticed was a couple of upright pianos that had been placed around the concourse, for people to sit and play. Now, unlike the footsteps on the escalator, this isn't the first time that I'd spent a few moments to pause and listen to the wonderful music being played or to stop in awe of the talents on display. 

But, it was the first time that I'd considered how wonderfully these acts illustrate how a light touch can influence the behaviour of budding and experienced pianists, and of course the passers-by, simply by placing a piano in the middle of a railway station. 

So it set me wondering. 

Wondering how leaders might think or rethink about their organisation's environment and how it can so gently, and yet so strongly, influence behaviour. 

What 'footsteps' could you use?

And, what 'pianos' can you provide for your people, to delight and engage them?

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