Sunday, October 24, 2004

Concerned about keeping good people? You should be.

The predicted shortage of people in the workplace means competition for the best - and some of them already work for you. Why do people stay and what makes them decide to leave?

Are you concerned about keeping your best people?

You should be.The Canada West Foundation has issued the most recent of three positive report in a row on the prospects for the BC economy and says that it is 'finally gaining traction after three years of lacklustre growth'. The report predicts that the provincial economy will outperform the rest of the country over the next two years and notes that current employment growth is already outpacing the national average. Good news for business and employment in BC.Every silver lining has a cloud however, and this threatens to rain on our parade unless BC business owners pay attention to the impact of a booming economy on the hiring and retention of good people and are prepared to do what it takes to keep their top performers.
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And if you are still not convinced that it is worth the effort to keep your best people, consider the cost of turnover. Craig Symons, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, defines two major cost components: hiring costs, the hard costs of recruitment, and vacancy costs such as compensation for interim replacements, overtime for current staff, and productivity losses. Harder to quantify in dollars, and sometimes the most devastating long term, is the impact on current initiatives, the break in continuity of internal relationships and the lost knowledge of the workings and history of the organization. Forrester estimates the average hard replacement cost ranges from 25 percent to 100 percent of a worker's annual salary and this estimate does not include vacancy costs.

Commitment to the organization is the strongest influence on an employee’s decision to stay or go. Complex factors affect commitment to the organization including perceptions of long term prospects, job satisfaction, stress and fairness. Money is important but not most important. People staying only for the money are not committed; they are simply waiting for a better opportunity .

So how do you keep your best people?
You know how it is when you are really engaged with what you are doing. You enjoy it, you get involved and you know that your efforts are worthwhile. Employee engagement is the current term for this stepped up commitment at work. It describes the positive attitude held by the employee towards the organization and its values. Opportunities to contribute and learn, the knowledge that opinions counts, working with people committed to doing a good job and the belief that personal goals can be met within their organization all contribute to job satisfaction [see inset for more contributors]. There is great deal of ongoing research, surveying, discussion and speculation about what raises mere satisfaction to genuine engagement. Out of all this, what seems to be emerging as the strongest driver for employee engagement is a sense of feeling valued and involved.

Simple to say and complicated to achieve, there are many aspects to creating an engaging culture and making it real and sustainable. Employee engagement is a lot like trust – hard to get, easy to lose and even harder to rebuild.

One vital key to engagement and retention is the relationship between the employee and a valued manager or supervisor. As employees’ expectations of involvement and appreciation are met, their commitment to the organization increases. Day to day, it’s the manager that fosters the relationship with the employees. Getting and growing commitment and engagement with employees means making a real commitment to engage with them.

For the business case:

o In a major review of millions of interviews, the Gallup Organization discovered that workgroups that exhibited the highest levels of employee engagement were more likely to have above-average employee retention, customer loyalty, safety records, productivity and profitability .

o Companies with high engagement levels had markedly higher total shareholder return (TSR) than those with low employee engagement. Companies with 60% to 100% employee engagement achieved an average TSR of 24.2%. With engagement scores of 49% to 60%, TSR dropped off to 9.1%. Companies with engagement below 25% suffered negative TSR .

Keeping Your Best People: creating the work place where they want to be. Learn what builds employee engagement and how to use this practical knowledge to create the place where they want to be. Ann Brown and Shauna Jones present this workshop in the BC Centre for Quality Insights Series.
November 4, 2004 8 am - 12 noon
349 West Georgia Street, Vancouver (enter off Homer St.)

Non-members $219; BCCQ Members $119 (GST exempt);

Register online for a lively, informative and thought provoking workshop.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Organizations: High Turnover: Should You Care?

Increasing employee mobility, the degree to which workers change companies, appears to be a fact of corporate life in the 21st century. But are such workers less committed to their employers as a result?

The common perception is that workers who hop from job to job are less committed; perhaps even suffer from an inability to commit. However, the reality is that this new generation of 'knowledge nomads,' while moving frequently, do form attachments and commit to employers when they stop, according to Todd L. Pittinsky (HBS PHDOB '01) and Margaret J. Shih, in Knowledge Nomads: Organizational Commitment and Worker Mobility in Positive Perspective from the February issue of American Behavioral Scientist.

This article suggests that we should focus less on retention and more on "re-recruiting". Perhaps it's not a case of either/or ....more a "yes - and".

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Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Fundemental Leadership. Appreciating Personal Strengths

Almost all research studies and training programs emphasize analysis and imitation of the skills, behavior and thought patterns of other successful leaders. Robert Quinn believes that true leadership comes not from role models, but from an inner change in perspective.

In “Building the Bridge As You Walk On It”, Robert Quinn throws out a challenge. He describes what he calls “a fundamental state of leadership” that involves eight practices linked through a theme of increasing integrity and invites us to engage in a process of deep change in ourselves. Through this personal journey, he says, we become real leaders and, by engaging in the process, we invite others to do the same.

The first three practices are reflective action, authentic engagement and appreciative inquiry.

Reflective Action

Leaders include personal and group reflective practices. As Quinn points out,we tend to assume that there is no place in the work day for reflection, spiritual awareness and personal integration. We do however, find time to complain about the loss balance and share burn out stories.

He includes a reflection exercise designed to help a group gain insights, focus on core issues and create strong relationships. Quinn also recognizes that for some, writing is a way to connect to patterns and link our present to the past. Which ever way works for you, find a place for the reflection and contemplation vital to clearly identifying our core energy – our authentic self.

Sounds like an appreciative approach? It leads nicely into the next step.

Authentic Engagement

Quinn’s description of authentic engagement is based on Robert Fritz’ book “The Path of Least Resistance”. I felt compelled to go back to the source on this one.

Fritz uses the term “fundamental choices” to describe our true life orientation. If we consciously make our fundamental choice we will always make primary choices (specific desired results) and secondary choices (the means to achieve them) that are consistent with our values and purpose. If we do not deliberately make a fundamental choice we become reactive-responsive – victims not leaders, responding to circumstances and certainly not in charge of our own lives. For example, if we react to having a hard time climbing stairs by making a primary choice to get stronger(goal) and a secondary choice to go to the gym 3 times a week (means) without making the fundemental choice for health, it's not likely that we'll stick with it in the long term.

Things you do within a reactive-response orientation to attempt to better yourself can give you the impression of change and movement, but it is not likely that any significant change will take place. Even if your attempts seem to work temporarily, they will not fulfill your truest desires. On the other
hand, once you make the fundamental choice to be the predominant creative force in your life, any approach you choose to take for your own growth and development can work, and you will be especially attracted to those approaches that will work particularly well for you.

The Path of Least Resistance, Robert Fritz 193

Our fundamental choice reframes our reality and creates new paths in our lives. If we choose, for example, to be a positive force in our own lives, we may stop old habits of self criticism, replace it with positive critical reflection and use what we learn to generate action. We are not victimized by what happens, we can see it as input that informs our next choices.

Making a fundamental choice is making a choice to be true to the best and highest in yourself. Quinn calls this authentic engagement – committing to live by principle, increasing authenticity while remaining engaged. This leads easily into the third stage where he explores appreciative inquiry as a way to “call forth and expand our own personal core”.

Appreciative Inquiry

Quinn describes an exercise that he was instructed to undertake to find his unique value. He had to contact people and ask them how he most created value or what they saw as his unique, positive characteristics. He selected 35 people who knew him well and would give honest opinions. The resulting feedback was both humbling and uplifting as people shared stories that he had forgotten and described incidents that he did not think people would remember or value. By synthesizing the feedback he was able to create a description of his positive core, the essence and source of his personal value creation – a description of himself, not as he always is but when he is at his very best. He found it energizing, humbling and powerful.

So what....

Compare Quinn’s approach with traditional feedback gathering mechanisms. Although we ask “what do I do that supports you” the next question is usually some form of “what I am doing wrong, what do I need to fix?” The equivalent of “yeah...but” and a slippery slope to good old problem solving. Left with a list of what we are not doing well, there is a tendency to make “New Years’ Resolutions (NYRs)” to eliminate the undesirable behaviour.

Why don’t we ask for positive valuations? There is something in human nature that drives us to fixate on our flaws and believe it is bragging to “blow your own horn” or as Quinn puts it “violating the norms of humility”.

Humility is not weakness and it is certainly not lack of power. Intentional people are aware of their unique abilities and, with real self knowledge, focus on using those strengths to fulfill their personal mission and purpose. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful workplace that enabled each person to find that power centre with the core energy that excites passion and commitment? Imagine a workplace full of people who are “on purpose”.

I’ll give the last word to Robert Quinn.

“Real humility comes when we see the world as it really is. The real world is a world of connectedness, of moving flows of power. When we transcend our own egos, when our outer self and our inner self connect,we experience increased integrity, increased oneness, greater connectedness. At such moments we feel greatness.”

Thought Leaders Interview with Robert Quinn at Hr.Com on August 30,2004. Register at to hear the interview with HR.Com - it's free!

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