Saturday, May 31, 2008

Energize Leaders

There is a lot of focus today on employee engagement, but what about leader energy and engagement? Everywhere you look there are signs that leaders are not doing very well. Leader turnover is an all-time high; confidence is down, engagement scores are down, and leaders are being asked to answer the phone 24x7, track email nonstop, be on call for questions from employees and peers, firm performance is lower than expected for many organizations, and the list goes on. I continue to find that leader energy is lower than they want it to be, and their confidence in themselves and their support systems is low and declining.

In the last leadership pulse, I asked the respondents what exactly is affecting their energy at work. Below are some sample responses from the CEO respondents:

"Too many unrealistic deadlines can cause problems."

"Overtired conditions due to working late in the day and less sleep "recovery" time"

"Since I own the company, I am sought after for answers from many directions. This limits the work goals I personally set. I lose energy when I don't see my own goals to fruition."

"The feeling of being overwhelmed continues unabated. I try to set a certain number of things that I must accomplish each day to give myself a sense of momentum and achievement. Sometimes I am successful, sometimes I am not and I feel guilty when I am not.... I am leaving too many things to that last minute which is partially because I have convinced myself that I work really well under pressure (that may be a personal myth)."

"Need more assistance-To hire employees when profits increase"

"Family Issues, Economic uncertainty, employee issues, account receivables"

How do we help leaders? I'm sure there are many answers, and I'll start the list with one.

Monday morning - rather than make the long to do list of all the overwhelming things you have on your plate for the week, take a moment and think about last week. What did you do well? What worked? Then go into the office, or make a call, and take a few moments to share that information with your team.

I'm looking for other tactical ideas - that can be done on Monday morning. If you have some thoughts, please share them.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

HR Myths

If you follow the last post titled "first do no harm" and the comments, it leads to the conclusion that there's not "one best over-riding" way to do many things that we do in HRM. But somehow, the "one best way" philosophy has a strong grip on the field. Research that I have conducted shows that simply raising employee engagement or employee satisfaction or employee survey scores is not always the right strategy because raising scores for some employees lowers their performance. There's a similar story for turnover. Lowering turnover for all departments, all jobs, and all groups also is not the right thing to do for many organizations. What other myths should we be challenging in the field?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

First Do No Harm

First do no harm. It's a statement you hear most often associated with the medical community. However, what if this same caution should be applied to HR? Let me explain. In several studies that I have done over the last 20 years I have found an interaction effect in analyzing employee survey data that leads to the following conclusion: Increasing employee engagement or satisfaction survey scores for "low energy" employees has a negative effect on their performance. Basically, the action plans that we give managers can do more harm than good for a specific subset of the employee population. I was presenting this research last week to a group of senior HR executives, and they all had examples of this phenomenon in their own firms. One executive asked me if I thought the 'best place to work' surveys were bad, because she was convinced that their firm's actions to become a best place to work backfired in just the way that my research shows. Comments?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Check out John Boudreau's response; you will find it in the response section for the original post. Out-take: "The paradigm extension is that at some point the dishes are clean enough. We don't have to get them perfectly sterilized. In the same way, it would be a mistake to think that we need to create perfect HR services before we extend our focus to tracking the quality of talent decisions, wherever they are made."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Steve McElfresh left a very thought-provoking comment .. please check it out. An "out-take" from his comment:

"In sum: It may be that becoming less transactional (even in the name of becoming more strategic) often simply creates a vacuum with which we fill more operating activities and HR services. "

Saturday, May 10, 2008

HR progress

I just got back from the annual Center for Effective Organizations (CEO) sponsor meeting, and one tidbit should be of interest to you all. The team at CEO has been doing a research study on the state of HR since 1995, studying a number of issues by collecting data on how the HR job is evolving. The bottom line result is that although the respondents say that the HR function is changing, that they are doing more strategic work and less administrative work, the raw data show that things have been pretty stable. For example, in 1995, respondents said they spent 15.4% of their time on administrative tasks, and in 2007 they say they now spend 15.9%. In 1995, they said they spent 21.9% of their time in the strategic business partner role, and in 2007 it's 25.5%. Why, even though we think things are changing (by the way via other data, the study shows they really do perceive that they are spending their time differently), does the data show basically no significant changes in how HR spends its time? I'm asking John Boudreau to chime in here so he can explain the details of the study for those of you who want to learn more.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Need energized and engaged leaders

The bottom-line story on what I am seeing in the research data on leadership confidence that has been in the Leadership Pulse study is that many managers and leaders have severe "stacking work syndrome." They have so much to do, so many projects, and multiple demands that they don't have enough time to do even their core jobs. They keep surfing from stack to stack, trying to get even just a small amount done of every little project, and then nothing is completed - making them feel de-energized and less confident. These leaders do not have time to engage their employees. Someone needs to help them first. You have to start with leaders - they need to be at an optimal energy level before they can even start to think about employee engagement.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

David Zinger posted a comment and asked about the drop in confidence for two specific questions - confidence in economic conditions and confidence in their own leadership skills. They both decreased, but the change in personal leadership was small compared to what we saw in the other questions. The biggest drops were in: (1) confidence in their firm's ability to change as needed, and (2) confidence that they have the right people and skills in their organizations. What's interesting about this is "how can we be so confident in ourselves as leaders but not be able to change and not have the right people?" What's going on out there?

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