What do your employees even do?

My inbox and timeline are consistently filled with employee engagement tips. Every day I get something from a vendor or two trying to pitch an HR Tech tool to solve employee engagement or a white paper on effective employee engagement strategy. No matter how well written or how well thought out these tools are, they almost always miss an important factor.

The secret?

Just kidding, I’ll tell you

You can’t solve employee engagement without the employee. I know you just rolled your eyes (I can see you) because we already know this, but I see it all the time. You have a meeting with great discussion about what to roll out next, how to bridge the gap, and timelines for the next three emails but you still don’t include the employees. If you do include employees you get feedback and say “oh, we can’t do that” and immediately pivot and go in another direction. Your employees deserve more information though, why can’t we do that?

The absolute number one thing missing from a more effective employee engagement strategy is you knowing and understanding what the employees at your organization do. No one believes that you value them once they figure out that, at best, you know their job title. No value, no engagement. When you roll out initiatives that have nothing to do with actual employee pain points, you are likely making engagement worse. You shouldn’t make employees adapt to how corporate wants things done and figure out how to serve your customers; you should let your employees serve your customers and let corporate adapt to the needs of the employees.

I absolutely do NOT mean survey your employees, I mean TALK to them

Throwing an ice cream social or sending company swag or buying a new tech tool only puts a band-aid over the real issue. Put the brakes on all the planning you’re doing right now and take some time to get to know your employees. Really find out about the work they do, and why they do it. Build from there. Then at your next ice cream social (if you must have one), celebrate their work, celebrate them.

I’ll always tell y’all that we over-complicate the HR function, we add unnecessary layers and extra meetings but employee engagement talk has gone too far off path. You can’t solve your employee engagement issues by talking to other HR Pros if you haven’t talked to your employees first. When you do talk to your employees, make sure you listen- don’t explain away their feedback and mold it to fit what you think the problem is, really listen to them. I’m telling you once you build this foundation, your employee engagement has potential to soar. That’s when you need to consider the tech tools to ENHANCE it, don’t kid yourself for one second into thinking that technology = engagement because it does not. Its only a piece of the puzzle and no one is really interested in using your tech tool if they know you aren’t really interested in them.

Dear Manager

A few things to remind you about the manager you set out to be, you know for when you have your next gig as a manager. What better way to hold yourself accountable than to put it online for the world to see. So here goes:

letter writing

Dear Manager,

Remember the type of manager you wanted to be. Much like the type of manager you wanted to work for. Remember that. Are you that manager now?

Believe in your people. When you no longer believe in your people, have that tough conversation with them…fix it. Do you believe in your team right now?

Fight for your people. No need to fight for your people, if you don’t believe in your people-see previous item. Fight for them to have the resources they need. Fight for their needs. Fight for their interests. Will you fight for your team today if you need to?

Stick up for your people. Stick up for your people. Stick up for your people.  Don’t let anyone belittle your profession and do not let anyone belittle your people. If you aren’t comfortable sticking up for your people we need to revisit the belief you have in your people. Will you stick up for your team today?

Remember what it was like to be in the trenches and use it for something. Don’t use it for horror stories and telling your team to suck it up and press on. Don’t use it to tell your team that it could be worse, it was worse. Use it to think of new ways your people can get their work done more efficiently. Use it to help your team think creatively to solve problems. Use it as a reminder to not take your people in the trenches for granted. Use it to keep yourself from getting frustrated with your people in the trenches. Some days were tough. Use it for improvement. Do you remember what it was like?

Don’t use the phrase “that’s just how we do that here,” or “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Don’t discourage your team from thinking creatively and/or understanding processes. You cannot undo that. Are you discouraging people?

Don’t set your people up for failure. You can prevent that.

Grow your people. Grow your people in whatever way they are willing to grow.

Forgive your people when they make a mistake.

Listen. Listen to what their needs are, what their wants are, what their goals are. How can you help them today?

Finally, keep adding to this. You can’t have too many reminders to bring you back to what it was like. Don’t just say you don’t want to be a certain way when you’re manager, act on it. Hold yourself accountable and do what’s right.

Sincerely,

The younger you that knew she needed a break from being a manager. It can be tough on both sides of the table. 

It’s time to go full-time #truestorytuesday

I love a good story about how off mark a manager has behaved. One of my favorites was the one  I read about the supervisor that decided it would be a great idea for him to take everyone’s cell phones when they got to work and give them back when they left (and not for security purposes). I believe in most cases the manager is just trying to get the job done and hopefully has good intentions, just the wrong way to get to the end result.  I also know what it’s like to be so desperate to get the job done that you start taking extreme measures, but here goes a classic conversation with a manager and a new mom working part-time:

Manager: Look, I know you want to stay home with Violet, and you don’t want anyone else to keep Violet, but I really need you to be here full-time. I’ve made a list of local day cares that can take Violet now. I’ve circled and highlighted my favorites with notes about their curriculum. I think this one is the best and the staff I met with was very friendly, it’s also very affordable. You should call them.

Employee: My availability is part-time and that is not changing.

Close curtain.

workingmoms

What would you do different in this event as either the employee or the manager?

 

Pitch-a-policy

Guess what day it is… Guess. What day. It Is. It’s PITCH-A-POLICY FRIDAY! …. Wooot!

Just kidding… it’s only Wednesday and we ain’t pitchin’ no policies anytime soon! But wouldn’t it be nice if we were? Man. I can’t even take credit for this… someone mentioned this to me in Chicago-I want to say they saw it in a book? Not sure.. specifics not necessary anyway (if you’re in the market for a fact-finding blog shoo now, go on somewhere else…). Back to the point… What if you went around to everyone on your team and let them pick a policy that they would like to pitch to the trash!? Wouldn’t that be awesome? I’d be so excited to do that I probably couldn’t function; the hard part for me would be picking JUST ONE. I wonder what our employees would suggest if we gave them that option??? #justdreaming

It would be a magnificent time to get rid of pesky policies that serve little to no purpose. Ever have a conversation with a co-worker or employee about a policy and say “well we just have to do that because it’s policy, it’s not necessary that we do that for really any other purpose”. I get confused with the #policypolice at work because my thought process is: the policy must exist for a reason so we must follow it. My brain cannot work correctly when you train me on a policy and then I follow said policy and then you tell me obey hr catsaid policy is pretty much useless. I go into LOUD NOISES mode and then shut down! If it’s useless get rid of it. Don’t write policy just to write policy. Let your policies serve a real purpose. I swear I’ve worked in companies that had more policies than they knew what to do with. No one reads all those policies. Heck, the HR department doesn’t know all those policies-even though 90% of them were “implemented” by HR. What kind of picture does that paint? How serious can your department be taken if it’s pushing around unnecessary policies? How effective is it to write a policy for one trouble maker? Better yet, how lazy is it to write a policy for one bad apple? I know a lot of my HR buddies agree with me-manage your people don’t policy them to death.

Do you policy your people to death? If you could trash a policy from your handbook which policy would it be? Why?

Taking Charge vs Leading

Did you know there is a difference? Once upon a time I didn’t know and when I say once upon a time I pretty much mean most of my life. I can think back as far as a 3rd grade group science project that I was in charge of and how little patience I had for two of the kids in my group that didn’t “get it.” Oy vey! Just thinking about it now messes with my blood pressure-it wasn’t a hard project (yep, I can remember the project exactly too!).

I just know what you should be doing...
I just know what you should be doing…

Anyway, at my last position I had many trials and tribulations in the area of leading… mostly because I have an obvious lack of patience and a low bs tolerance, but I learned a lot!  So my aha! moment came one Thursday night after work when I was sitting at my desk with absolute shock and anger at the fact that my staff wouldn’t do their jobs the right way, CMON MAN! And I was called to the carpet that very day for being short with them… My response to that was just blank stares and a lot of “REALLY?”… [what an amateur response right?] So I dial-up one of my allies in the company just to get some perspective and kind of vent, SOOOOO NOT expecting this person to give me an aha! moment. He asks me what happened and what I said so I begin to tell him… he stops me in mid-story and says “THERE, RIGHT THERE!” What? Right there what? “If someone said that to you, you would be so offended…” You know what, I would’ve been, but my defense counteracted with a smart aleck “No one would have to say that to me for me to get offended because I would be doing it already!” Well sass-pants that’s not the point now is it? The point is you can’t talk to people like that and expect them to respond… So the back part of the aha! moment was this: I’ve got to stop talking to my staff like I’m a co-worker and start talking to them like I’m their leader. When I say that I talked like a co-worker, I think many times I did & it’s similar to when a parent tries to play the role of a friend and not necessarily the role of a parent – it’s confusing. I was pretty much creating my own problems because I wouldn’t let go of my stubbornness because “If I can understand it why can’t they?” was a staple in my reasoning.

So after a few days of licking my wounded ego and pretending I wasn’t in the wrong I started a change, a change that wasn’t as evident then as it is now, in how I talk to people not just staff. It started with little steps like replacing some words in a request with nicer words, becoming sincere, practicing patience of course and trying to understand why it is that someone doesn’t understand what I feel I easily understand. Some of these were steps that I already knew I should-be doing, I was just too stubborn and some if it is advice from my great group of HR peeps and of course a book or two helped guide me. It’s exciting for me to see the difference in how people respond to requests from me and I feel like I’m really back on track to getting this leadership thing down. Taking charge of a project has always come easy for me, but leading a project, I know now, is way more enjoyable!

Just for fun...
Just for fun…