The other day I wrote an article that outlined Price’s Law Theory which states that “the square root of the number of people in a domain do 50% of the work.” To put this in a simple to understand formula – if you have 100 people in a workplace, 10 of these people produce 50% of the total results while the remaining 50% of the work is shared among 90 people. In a company with 200 employees – 14 of these people produce 50% of the total results leaving 186 people to share the other 50%. And for most companies and leadership – that is totally acceptable. Objectively, however, it is profoundly unacceptable – especially in today’s quickly evolving business landscape.
According to Gallup research, an astounding 70% of U.S. employees are not showing up to work fully committed to deliver their best performance. Adding insult to injury, 52% of those workers are basically sleepwalking through their day, and 18% of them are busy acting out their unhappiness.
As leaders we need to make all employees accountable for sharing the work and delivering results in a balanced way with their high-performing colleagues. All too often we drive our top performers away through a series of leadership decisions that disengage the best people in the business and inspire them only to look elsewhere for a job that will give them the compensation, title, career path, and/or attention they want and deserve. Most organizations that I encounter cannot afford to lose their top employees but yet they continue to sabotage their engagement strategies by treating everyone equally and using generic tools to drive workplace “happiness”.
YOUR TOP PERFORMERS HAVE UNIQUE EXPECTATIONS
A high performer can deliver 400% more productivity than the average performer [Source: HBR]
The workplace factors that keep your highly-skilled and -productive employees motivated are somewhat different from average|mediocre employees needs, and it behooves all leaders to be aware of these differences and expectations. While competitive salaries are important, HBR research found that using compensation as a method of delivering employee rewards can potentially backfire and cause resentment among coworkers. On the other hand, high performers care significantly more than average performers about having their efforts noticed, recognized and rewarded. These rewards can be in the form of social or financial recognition, but in either case, your top talent is eager – rightfully so – to receive praise, financial incentives, consistent and honest feedback, and opportunities. This is another reason that if your organization is in the habit of only providing the dreaded [and deeply ineffective] annual or semi-annual performance evaluations, the employee engagement level of your top performers is likely to disappoint.
YOUR TOP PERFORMERS DESERVE UNIQUE CONSIDERATION
50% of high performers say they expect at least a monthly sit down with their managers, but only 53% say their manager delivers on their feedback expectations. [Source: HBR]
When most organizations and their leadership look at internal workforce statistics, they look at it as a whole – all employees tend to be agglomerated into a singular category so generically defined that it becomes difficult to make meaningful decisions and assess the effectiveness of the initiatives on individuals. If your average employee tenure is five years, is that good? How could that be bad, right? You could benchmark against other organizations in your same industry and find that you may look pretty good. But if the people you are keeping are the low performers and your high performers are leaving, how can that be beneficial to the company?
In March 2016, I wrote about a retail company I was working with, “I asked what the average tenure of the District Managers is: 3 years. In the poorest performing Districts the tenure is 6+ years.” The company had to have about two weeks to compile and provide me with this simple information. This type of data is hugely telling about the effectiveness of leadership and processes inside the organization – the fact that they had this available but no one ever thought to ask for it was extremely indicative of the organization’s senior and executive “leadership” and their desire to blindly manage their workforce. In doing so, they were losing their top-performers at a pace of 3-to-1. Not surprisingly, in February 2018 this company filed Chapter 11.
One in five high performers are likely to leave their organization in the next six months (versus one in four of employees overall who are likely to leave in the near term), and less than half are satisfied with their jobs. [Source: HBR]
Not only is the demand for customer experience a deeper expectation than those outside any service industry may presume but it is evolving at an unprecedented pace. If we don’t manage our relationships with our top performers [and expand the pool of highly-productive and skilled talent] better we will be unable to keep up with expectations of today’s consumer and marketplace. Along with the marketplace, customer attitudes, anticipation, and business’ responses have shifted. Social media is here to stay and everyone has a voice. Millennials and GenZ’ers have significant spending power [$200B + & $100B, respectively] and prefer different and engaging methods of communication.
33% of Americans say they’ll consider switching companies after just a single instance of poor service. [Source: American Express 2017 Customer Service Barometer]
FIVE THINGS THAT INSPIRE EMPLOYEES TO DELIVER MORE
The IBM Smarter Workforce Institute [this site is totally worth a visit if you have some free time] and Globoforce’s WorkHuman® Research Institute partnered to find the answers to similar questions with a global study involving more than 23,000 employees in 45 countries across different industries. Researchers looked at the responses to find the expectations that employees have about their experiences at work. This study led researchers to construct the Employee Experience Index for measuring what they found to be these five core requirements of positive employee experience:
- Belonging – feeling part of a team, group, or organization;
- Purpose – understanding why one’s work matters;
- Achievement – a sense of accomplishment in the work that is done;
- Happiness – the pleasant feeling arising in and around work;
- Vigor – the presence of energy, enthusiasm, and excitement at work.
Organizations that can cultivate and and deliver through experience and culture these five things in their workplace are more likely to motivate their people to perform at higher and more consistent levels, contribute “above and beyond” expectations, and are also less likely to quit. Employees with more positive and delightful experiences at work reported significantly higher levels of discretionary effort. In fact, the study indicates, “discretionary effort is almost twice more likely to be reported when employee experience is positive” – a whopping 95% compared to 55%.
WHAT CAN ORGANIZATIONS & LEADERSHIP DO TO IMPROVE EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE?
“83% of employees who receive recognition of their performance, and 80% of those receiving feedback, reported a positive employee experience, compared to 38% and 41% who did not.” [Source: Globoforce]
Colleague Relationships: The study also found that “supportive co-worker relationships are also an important driver of a positive work experience. When those relationships are present in the workplace, employees report a much more positive employee experience than when that support is absent [77% compared to 35 %].”
Trust As An Organizational Non-Negotiable: Employees increasingly expect to trust their organizations to be responsible and act with integrity. When those expectations are met, 83% of respondents describe a positive employee experience, 46% points higher than when those expectations are unmet. This means acting with integrity, authenticity, honesty, and holding ALL people inside the organization to this expectation. Most important, weeding out those who don’t display honesty and integrity in their professional values.
“Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.” – Studs Terkel, American author, historian, actor, and broadcaster.
Work With Meaning & Purpose: This means ensuring that people’s skills and talents are being fully utilized and there is greater alignment to shared vision and core values. When employees agree their work is consistent with the organization’s objectives, 80% report a more positive employee experience [compared with 29% who do not agree]. When employees activities are aligned and collaborative their job makes good use of their skills and abilities, 81% of people report a more positive employee experience [compared to 41% who did not agree].
“The mission/purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.” is also one of the points of the Gallup’s 12 drivers of employee engagement.
Empowerment: When employees feel their feedback, innovative ideas, and suggestions matter, they are more than twice as likely to report a positive employee experience than those who don’t [83% percent compared with 34%]. In today’s workplaces there is a confusing standard which is that people/leaders can articulate the compelling value of new and useful ideas. However, the reality is that these innovative approaches and possibilities are undermined each day in organizations that favor and insist upon operational execution, such as checklists, time-wasting meetings, productivity measured by hours worked, and control. In today’s workplaces we have creative and driven talent bringing their own ways to work and finding new and efficient ways to execute their responsibilities and construct their day or week that no longer fits into a predictable or parochial traditional working relationship. Allowing the most productive people to own their day means 79% of employees are engaged versus only 42% when required to conform to moldy, outdated practices that fall under the “but this is how we’ve always done it” category of management.