Remember that first day feeling? You have a fantastic new job. You’re excited, passionate, believe in the greatness of things to come. The company can’t wait for you to join and make the difference…
This hack starts with the premise that employees want to give all they are capable of every day. Over time aspirations and inspirations are eroded because of obstacles the organisation puts in the way- because of things that do happen and things that don’t happen... It is management’s job to do everything it can to stop this from happening.
The vast majority of employees begin a new role wanting to give their best, to explore ‘what they are made of’, and achieve great results for the organisation, which will in turn support and develop them in this journey. You would think leaders and managers would do everything they can to sustain and support this enthusiasm, yet slowly and surely, in most organisations employee belief and trust in all they signed up for silently begins to wilt. ‘Stuff’ happens that gets ignored, promises made are overtaken, information needed never arrives, decisions seem arbitrary, the IT system never works… Inspiration and motivation is eroded, and the culture is increasingly driven by what is ‘acceptable’ rather than the aspirations that brought you together in the first place. Employees no longer believe the organisation wants 10/10, rewards 10/10, deserves 10/10.
The problem to overcome is threefold. Firstly, making employees themselves conscious of the issues and obstacles which stop them from giving their best. Externalising, articulating and framing the problem is the first step towards any solution. They may often be able to resolve the issue themselves through further reading, a connection to the right person in the organisation, or to be prompted to have a conversation they have avoided for too long.
Secondly, continuously reminding managers of what their job is really about- coaching their team to help them realise their potential and engaging them in the mission of the organisation. Furthermore, they need insightful and accurate information to know where to make the difference.
Thirdly, it is not simply a case of leaders and managers resolving the issue, but resolving it fast. The greater the inertia lag, the less valuable an employee perceives themselves and their work to be. In fact, being seen to resolve an issue slowly can sometimes be more corrosive than not acknowledging it at all.
Feedback today is often delayed (until the next appraisal), distorted (by emotion, fear of direct criticism, suppression) and intangible (spread by rumour rather than open fact). Coaching talent, protecting enthusiasm, encouraging greatness- this is the work of great managers. How do we turn an organisation’s awareness on to this, start the dialogue, empower resolution and make our daily work about striving for the best that we are?
A simple tool that goes to the heart of what management should really be about- doing everything they can to ensure an employee to get on with giving their best. It's a tool that empowers employees to connect with their performance versus their capability, consider the gap, and give feedback that enables managers to make the difference on a daily basis:
1. Funky screen pop up with 3 core questions:
- I came in today willing and able to give... sliding temperature scale response
- So far today, I have given... sliding scale response
- The reasons for this are.... free text
There is also then an optional space for a ‘question of the day’. These can evolve around the same topic over several days/ weeks and develop like a conversation, or around a pertinent theme that is being raised either through this tool or through other channels in the business such as changes in the external market, annual appraisals, new strategy, etc. The question must be focused on seeking solutions and collective input on matters that affect the organisation as a whole- including how useful and valuable employees are finding the tool itself.
As the employee is typing free text, key word connections (such as ‘data’ and ‘training’) are made to intranet content and approved internet content such as articles in business and trade journals. As with google, you can click on these results to read further, and mark the results for their relevance. If no suitable search results are found you can click a ‘spot the gap’ icon. You can also select to be contactable by anyone else who logs the same key word issues- this would gradually connect a community of like-minded individuals across the organisation willing to explore an issue raised. The search results also allow employees the option to submit feedback and ideas to the managers responsible for the subject matter they have raised such as training, data management, strategy, marketing.
2. Entries are anonymous, although results are tagged by division.
3. Analysis & Resultant Action
Entries are fed directly onto an intranet dashboard, visible across the organisation.
Internal communications actively monitor and manage the data, tool and resultant outputs. They look for key words that are being raised repeatedly or have poor search results, and use this as a prompt to develop intranet content in that particular subject area (success is that these key words begin to reduce in volume). All free text comments are categorised by key word and sent to Board level on a weekly basis. They also track and communicate resolution of key issues, and ensure these are visibly fed back via internal communications channels.
The dashboard has a key topics/ discussions section where free text comments can be read (if an employee has agreed to be contactable/ visible). Managers and leaders responsible for these subject areas can post a short response with an update on a resolution in progress or where the employee can find out more (think facebook news feed).
A Board level member is the owner and custodian of the tool and ensures the results and insights it provides are discussed at Board level and are visibile across the organisation. As the owner, they are responsible for ensuring the tool is part of a dynamic dialogue between the employee and the organisation- that input is rewarded with timely meaningful output, and that results are discussed openly and transparently. Furthermore, the responsible Executive oversees the filtering of performance versus capability metrics down to divisional leaders and managers, and works with the rest of the Executive team to incorporate key themes into management performance objectives.
Executives are held accountable for the performance versus capability metrics within their divisions. Results can be accessed at any time by all employees to ensure transparency and engagement with any issues/ successes they identify.
A more motivated and empowered workforce, accountable and focused management, and great learning loops. The emphasis would be the conscious pursuit of 10/10 performance across the organisation. It sends a strong cultural message that 10/10 is what we're about, empowers the employee to take responsibility for the effort they put in every day, and holds management accountable to help them to do this as quickly and effectively as possible. It also makes it far easier to discuss reasons for low morale across an organisation, and empowers direct and meaningful action to tackle it.
The tool is not only a ‘problem collector’ but also a problem solver- connecting employees with the knowledge, contacts and information they need to resolve the issue for themselves.
There is a strong message of trust through adopting this tool. It assumes employees would give a high performance every day if they could. Management would overtly become about coaching and enabling excellence. Leadership overtly play their role in making sure this is the focus and priority of the management teams they promote.
The dialogue between employees and their organisation is raised in visibility and moved from the unconscious space to the conscious. Many obstacles to employee performance can be resolved simply through giving the employee the right information or the right contact.
Many existing employee engagement models result in a long action plan of things the managers/ execs promise to do to remedy low scores. These are often 6- 12 months in advance, and difficult to build employee faith and belief in. The feedback from this solution is instant, so the responses can be too. This will also build trust in both management's capability and intentions.
1. Design the tool, and the results dashboard. Anonymity, eye catching graphics and a user friendly design are all key. The technology may be a combination of a simple business intelligence tool plus google key word search technology.
2. Engage and train the internal communications team to be custodians of the process. Importantly, this tool is not about P.R., it is not about top down messages but bottom up. Involve volunteer change agents from each division in this, to build trust in the anonymity and transparency of the process.
3. The team work to predict likely issues and obstacles that will be raised by employees in the free text comments. In order to improve key word search results for early users, the team proactively work with relevant managers and teams to improve the intranet content on these issues prior to launch.
4. Communications campaign around the tool roll out, led by the CEO. Ensure results are open, visible and encourage discussion. Broadcast actions taken and successes achieved as a result of the tool. Establish as a regular slot in weekly Board meetings.