employee value proposition

What is Employee Voice? Beyond the Engagement Paradigm

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By Sarah Elsing, researcher, Hot Spots Movement

Employee Voice is often linked to employee engagement. While employee surveys are used to assess employees’ levels of engagement, Employee Voice can be understood not only as a way of assessing people’s engagement levels but also as one way of enabling this engagement. It also reaches far beyond the realm of employee engagement. A two-way conversation with employees can help boost staff morale and productivity but it can also be useful in the problem-solving process, create innovation, and help an organisation’s leadership renegotiate the deal with its changing workforce.

Despite these wide-ranging uses and benefits, Employee Voice mechanisms are still most often applied in a reactive manner. Only when staff morale or productivity are already low do organisations start engaging their employees in a conversation. When this is the case, they often focus on understanding what is causing the problem rather than allowing employees to voice their ideas on how to improve the situation. As a large, diverse group of problem-solvers and innovators, employees remain largely untapped. At Hot Spots Movement, we therefore find that the best Employee Voice tools allow their participants to move from a reactive, negative and reflective state of mind to a more proactive, constructive and future-oriented conversation.

If you would like to find out more about Employee Voice and how it can work for you, simply leave your details on our contact form using the keyword ‘Employee Voice’. Our white paper on Employee Voice draws on the latest insights from our client-based research and provides best practice tips on how to make it work particularly in an era of digitalisation.

It’s Official: Mergers and Acquisitions are Back

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SONY DSC2015 was a record year, with $4.2 trillion of transactions pending or completed at the end of December. This news leaves shareholders and Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) bankers gleefully rubbing their hands together, however history has repeatedly shown us that after too many mergers employee engagement is lost. So what should you do if you’re the person left with the herculean task of curating these two very separate groups of people into one cohesive body with a shared purpose, values and community?

Let’s take a look at why disengagement sets in. Organisations have an unnervingly brief window of opportunity after announcing a merger to create a single community with shared values and purpose. If they don’t act fast, this opportunity is lost and the “us and them culture” sets in; individual employees ask “where do I fit in?”; and the values of the dominant company swallow up those of the smaller company. This makes the chance of cementing a truly joint purpose, from an engaged community with shared values, unobtainable.

So what should you be doing to avoid this? Well for a start it is fundamental that organisations engage employees from both sides of the merger in the co-creation of shared values as soon as possible after the merger announcement. This must be an engagement at scale, and in a way that enables them to contribute to the discussion and formulation of the shared values. The very act of focusing your people on co-creation establishes a sense of community across both sides of the merger. This sense of community in turn pushes the newly formed organisation over a tipping point of engagement. You can capitalise on the renewed energy created by heightened engagement to rapidly sense-check shared values across the organisation and enable employees to feel ownership over these values. This process creates a sense of belonging, motivation and engagement on an individual level, to maintain the energy and drive needed to push through the stress of the merger.

By following a process of acting both rapidly and inclusively you ensure that, instead of creating a sense of loss at the changes made by the merger, you’ve created a community. This is a community with a shared purpose, driving engagement, around the values of your newly formed company. This engagement has the added bonus of contributing to the success of the merger, ensuring your shareholders are still happy.

Do you need to cement values across silos? Contact harriet@hotspotsmovement.com for further information on how to achieve this.

Why knowledge sharing doesn’t happen at work – and what you can do about it

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Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 09.20.00If you work at a company of more than a few hundred employees, the chances are you spend at least some time each day on knowledge-sharing platforms… or at least you are being told you should. The rise of these platforms has been one of the defining corporate endeavours of the last decade. I say endeavour because despite the big investments in this type of technology, we hear endlessly that they have not achieved the collaborative, knowledge-sharing cultures they set out to.

But why? After all, the platforms themselves are usually intuitive and engaging. They’re rolled out to entire divisions and departments with gusto and in some companies they even manage to get the holy grail that is leadership role-modelling.

One of the answers according to our research here at the Future of Work is signalling. Let me explain.

The investments that companies have made in the systems is only part of what is required. Those systems must be just one element of a wider culture of collaboration. One in which people receive frequent and consistent behavioural cues that knowledge-sharing is expected and well received. These cues, or signals, come from the way in which the work environment is structured, both the physical environment and the processes and practices that surround every day behaviour.

Think about it in your organisation: when you walk into your office (let’s be honest, most of us – 87% in fact – still work primarily in an office) what are the cues you receive about how you should behave? Is it ok to be away from your desk or offline without an explanation for a few minutes, perhaps even an hour, so that you can start a conversation with a colleague and share knowledge the old fashioned way? Or, is any time away viewed with suspicion? Do you have the autonomy to build networks outside of your organisation, or with people in other regions? These are basic, but important questions because without the cultural norms encouraging people to share knowledge in-person, day-to-day, companies are unlikely to see those same people eagerly using knowledge-sharing platforms. Why would we expect an entirely different set of behaviours merely because people are online?

So, what’s the key message for organisations that are looking to enhance knowledge-sharing? Create signals – loud and clear – that encourage people to build on the expertise of others and use their skills to contribute the success of teams beyond their own. This requires an analysis of the many signals sent out by performance management approaches, training and development opportunities, and selection processes – what do each of these organisational tools tell people about how they should behave?

It means providing people with space and time to talk, wander, browse – indulge their curiosity for a few minutes a day and spark the conversations that will get them intrigued enough to search for more information, perhaps on a knowledge-sharing platform. Finally, when it comes to the platforms themselves, ensure they too send out clear signals about their purpose and the format in which people should contribute. The success of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter is that they are subtly prescriptive about what you should share and how (Twitter’s 140 characters being the obvious example). And avoid at all costs the fragmentation of employees across platforms. This in itself sends a mixed signal as to where people should be spending their time and contributing their expertise.

Knowledge-sharing platforms are a potentially game-changing tool to harness a culture of collaboration. Just don’t expect them to transform people into new ways of working simply by virtue of moving them online.

Why employees deserve big data too

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SONY DSCBig data is no longer a novelty for corporate organisations, nor is it the territory of those companies that are particularly pioneering. It frequently makes its way into board meetings and the C-Suite see the value of their organisation using the vast data points that technology now makes available to them. Then why is it only customers, and not employees, feeling the benefit of these advances?

Let’s take a look at how much big data has revolutionised the way that companies market their products and tailor experiences to the individual customer. Amazon has even introduced anticipatory shipping in order to ensure that one of the key differentiators of their service, speed of delivery, remains ahead of their competitors. The company collects a huge volume of data on buyers’ previous purchases, where they hover their mouse and their demography. Complex algorithms allow Amazon to predict what the customer will buy next and they then ship this product to a warehouse or transit van near the customer, ready for their click and buy. The item is subsequently delivered in a matter of minutes or hours rather than the conventional days or weeks, and Amazon maintains its competitive edge.

If organisations have this level of big data on their customers to ensure the company can consistently deliver on their USP, why are they not doing the same for their people? We know that employees are increasingly mobile and retention of the best talent is a huge focus for many organisations. By using big data about their people, organisations can contribute to the employee experience that people want.

At the Hot Spots Movement we have been struck by the benefits of using big data within organisations. When our clients look to bring about a major organisational change, they come to us to run a Jam – a global conversation lasting up to 72-hours. The Jam enables our clients to get the input they need drawing on expertise, experience and creativity from different functions and geographies from across their company. Analysing this thoughtful, extended conversation in the platform allows our clients to have access to the kind of qualitative big data they require. Challenges that have been tackled through this qualitative big data have included work/life balance, brand values and unleashing talent potential.

Our plea to the C-Suite of big corporate organisations? Use the data they have available to them within their companies to help tailor the employee experience and provide an environment they want to stay in.

 

The four actions to make the gig economy work for you

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Lynda - Hot Spots Movement - Portrait by LK - web size 72dpiImagine you were looking forward to working into your 80s. What sort of working life would you want?

My guess is few of us would want a life of relentless 9 to 5 or more likely 8 to 6 with a couple of weeks off for holidays. We know implicitly that this is a regime that would see our intangible assets denuded. How would we keep abreast of rapidly changing skills with such little time to step out and learn? How could we keep our health and vitality at its peak with such little time for rejuvenation? Indeed, how could we find enough time with friends and family?

Perhaps that’s why the gig economy is seen as such a promising development. Imagine selling your resources – house, car, skills, or time in a seamless easy way. Imaging having the ability to step off the corporate ladder and change the way you work at anytime, providing a window of different and more flexible work. The benefits certainly look appealing. But of course, the gig economy also comes with its challenges. Our society is still not quite set up to support people who do not have a steady income stream and permanent contract. Try, for example, applying for a mortgage without proof of future income. Or saving for a pension with an irregular cash flow and no employer contribution. These drawbacks mean that few people see the gig economy as their main work activity or as a long term choice – but view it instead as part of a wider portfolio.

For those who plan to build this kind of portfolio in future, and benefit from the real value of the gig economy, they will need to take four important actions:

 – work on transitional competencies. Moving from one type of work to another is not straightforward as it often means redesigning broader lifestyle choices and habits. These transitional competencies are developed through building a broad and diverse network – somewhere within that network will be people who have made the transition. Being surrounded by people who are similar to you will simply hold you back from changing. If you want to be part of the gig economy find others who are already there.

– build synergies between types of work. One of the joys of a portfolio life is variety – but this variety can come at a cost. When work activities are very different from each other then there is a ‘switching cost’ and cognitive abilities and working style have to switch between tasks. The more similar the task the less the switching cost. So try to build different job tasks from a platform of similar skills and competencies

– don’t build up tangible asset dependency. Working in the gig economy can bring variety, space and autonomy – but oftentimes people shy away from doing this type of work because they and their family have become addicted to a certain flow of money – holidays, cars, and general consumption. If you want to bring flexibility into your working life you have to ensure that you don’t develop spending habits at the top of your earning cycle. You must also be clear about what is essential for maintaining the standard of living you and your family need, and ensure that you are developing skills in lucrative fields that will deliver the commensurate income.

– realise you can’t have it all. There is much talk today that people (specifically mothers) can’t have it all – a family, big job, happy partner. Perhaps the same is true for putting together a portfolio of work. Most highly paid jobs come with 24/7 availability and pressured work. Gig economy jobs tend to have more autonomy and freedom. That’s why they tend not to be paid so well.

The gig economy has real promise to bring options to a working life. The question now is, are you ready?

What if money was no longer the most valuable asset a company could offer an employee?

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Lynda - Hot Spots Movement - Portrait by LK - web size 72dpiWhat is the most valuable asset a company can give an employee?

Historically the answer was simple – money. That’s why the HR function of most companies goes to such extreme lengths to design pay packets (bonuses, team-based rewards, stock options and so on) and to decide through antiquated performance management systems who gets paid what. Indeed, it’s why they’ve been persuaded that senior leaders really are worth up to 200% more than the pay of an average employee.

Yet we have known for sometime that although pay might indeed be a valuable asset for an employee, it’s unlikely to be the driver for their motivation. Indeed, years of research have shown that this valuable asset turns out more often to be a source of dissatisfaction rather than a motivator. Most people don’t work harder, or more creatively or cooperatively because they are paid more.

So recently the search has been on for more ‘intangible assets’ that could be really valued by employees. Perhaps it’s the opportunity to work more flexibly, or the chance to work for a boss that likes you, or to work in a convivial open plan office that employees value. And indeed, perhaps it’s this combination that results in employees being engaged rather than disengaged.

I think – to use a simple metaphor – we are barking up the wrong tree. Let me explain. Over the last couple of years my colleague, the economist Andrew Scott, and I have been asking a simple question ‘What happens when most people live to 100 years’. It’s been a fascinating exploration. One undeniable truth is that if you live to 100 then you will probably need to work into your 80s. Now there is no doubt that over the course of a long working life money is indeed crucial – no one wants to look forward to an old age lived in poverty. So money is a valuable asset that a company can give to an employee.

However, across a long life this tangible asset, whilst important, has to be balanced by equally important intangible assets. It seems to me that chief amongst these crucial intangible assets is the type of work an employee is given to perform. Work that is valuable both now and as a hedge against the future has three crucial elements:

  • It is interesting and allows workers to engage their mind and creativity
  • It has developmental potential – particularly to in terms of capabilities that are ‘portable’ in the sense that they can be used beyond the current job
  • It is non-routine so is unlikely to be substituted in the short term by robotics or Artificial Intelligence

For the sake of simplicity let’s call this ‘good work’. Now let’s play a mind game. Let’s assume that a leader in a corporation acknowledges that the intangible asset of ‘good work’ is as valuable to an employee as the tangible asset of money. If this were the case, what would we expect to see happening within the corporation? Here are five ideas:

  • We would expect jobs to be analysed with regards to the extent that they are composed of tasks that are interesting, developmental and non-routine. We could even imagine that these job characteristics are rated against a common currency – let’s call this unit a ‘tang’.
  • So when an employer is advertising a job, they are able to show both the financial assets the job is valued at (salary, bonus, stock options etc.) and also its ‘tang’ assets (interest, developmental potential, non-routine)
  • When an employee is deciding on whether to take a job, they can balance the tangible and intangible assets it creates. They can decide, for example, that they are prepared to take a higher ‘tang’ rated job at a certain point in their career, even if the salary is lower. Or indeed take a higher paid job whilst acknowledging that the ‘tang’ value is low.
  • It could be that managers who are particularly skilled at designing jobs for their team that have a high ‘tang’ value are celebrated for this sculpting skill.
  • We might expect that if the ‘tang’ value of a job falls below a certain level then the whole job has to be re-designed to increase the ‘tang value’ by adding tasks that are interesting, developmental or non-routine. This re-design could be initiated by the manager, or indeed by the worker who is performing the job and who is encouraged to broaden the scope of the job to envelope more ‘tang’ rich activities.

Right now it is still money that dominates the negotiated relationship between an employee and employer. Let’s widen the conversation to include an equally important asset – good work. Perhaps by understanding the value of work with as much finesse as we currently understand the value of reward systems, we can begin to give employees a better choice about the deal they want to strike.

Improve your employee value proposition

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SONY DSCSpeaking at the recent OMN Future of Work meetup on the HMS President in London last month, I noted that, according to the employee engagement company Gallup, only 13% of our employees are engaged. In the ensuing Twitter debate, people were surprised but resigned to the statistic. They recognised that their workplace contributed to this data. Quite simply, our engagement models are broken. We need to rectify this.

Since speaking at the event, I’ve been looking into companies that are trying to remedy the situation – a vital step given that employee engagement figures are getting progressively worse and churn is increasing. I’ve previously examined what motivational performance management looks like, and this week I’m going to take a look at creating sophisticated and meaningful employee value propositions (EVPs). In an effort to reduce churn and increase engagement, some companies are utilising customer-segmentation techniques in their talent management strategies, giving rise to the ‘employee customer’.

This increasingly popular approach to talent management views talent as customers when considering the employee value proposition. No longer are people viewed as small cogs in a machine; in an increasingly competitive talent environment they need to be given the same care and attention that their customers have long enjoyed.

In global corporations, your people are likely to include four generations and a myriad of cultures, languages, concerns and aspirations. Assuming that you can take this as one homogenous group and create a single employee value proposition (EVP) will lead to misalignments between what you are giving your people and what they actually want. So what’s the solution? Segment, segment, segment!

As your colleagues in marketing will tell you, segmentation is identifying and grouping clusters of consumers that share the same or similar preferences and needs. Clearly, from cluster to cluster, these preferences and needs will vary. Though how you choose to segment is fairly subjective, it is crucial that the segments you create are actionable. That is to say segmentation creates meaningful insights with regards to the EVP for each ’employee customer’ segment.

Click here to learn more about technology that enables you to fully understand your ’employee customers’.