Engaging your team… articulate the behaviors that lead to success.

mh900295860Do you get the sense that your employees feel undervalued and/or unappreciated, but you can’t figure out why? You’ve done everything you can think of in making your salaries competitive, offering comprehensive benefits, implementing employee recognition programs, yet the employee morale just isn’t where you think it should be. Perhaps this discovery was revealed after an employee engagement feedback survey.

You’re confused, you’re frustrated, and you’re not alone. At Helios, we are often approached to conduct employee engagement surveys for organizations facing this challenge around Washington. While sometimes we find that the organization needs compensation benchmarking to be more competitive or maybe their programs could use a little redesign, we also commonly find that it is not the programs in place that fall short.

As leaders, we miss opportunities to communicate our employee value proposition and the corresponding philosophy that supports our programs and offerings.  Considering that people need to hear messages at least seven times and learn through various ways, it is not at all surprising that there is a disconnect between the perception of how frequently something is communicated and the actual communication that is heard.

The first step in overcoming this challenge for leaders is to formalize their philosophy on total rewards.  To learn more about the value of a total rewards philosophy click here.

Developing a total rewards philosophy is a critical element in ensuring that your organization has a tool to help you drive human capital decisions and communicate those decisions to employees.  By first articulating your total rewards strategy you help your team understand how decisions impacting them get made and you clarify the behaviors that are rewarded. You can never over communicate the behaviors that drive the values of the organization. In fact, more frequently people tend to list lofty values at a higher level. They may post them on their website, on posters or plaques in the office and hand them out in wallet sized cards even. Yet too often they fail to identify the specific behaviors that define their values. Excellence, quality and accountability may look different to you than it does to me.

Help your employees be successful. Ensure you implement a communication plan that defines your total rewards philosophy, programs and the behaviors that define the company values. In doing so, you’ll not only attract and hire the right people that fit your organizational culture, you’ll have a much more engaged team!

Key Components of Talent Acquisition vs. Recruiting

How to Establish the Best Career Mentor Relationship for Professional Development

Have you ever thought about using a cost effective, long-term strategy that will help take your career, knowledge or professional presence to the next level?  There are times that we feel a desire to improve upon ourselves, but a course or a workshop may not be the solution.  Your goal may be to improve upon skills that simply need to be honed over time and with experience.  This desire to improve in a manner outside of using textbooks or by attending a class could be addressed by seeking a career mentor.  If you have concluded this is a great option for you, the next steps would be determining how to find a great career mentor.

In 2002, the month of January was proclaimed National Mentoring Month.  Mentoring, in theory, should begin with our youth and can be a life-long means of growth.  The concept of mentoring in the career world is to pair up a person that likely has reached a level of success you aspire to obtain.  Mentoring is a strategic way of being encouraged to grow, expand experiences and challenge yourself to raise the bar by learning from the person or persons you partner.

The Best Criteria for Identifying a Great Career Mentor for Professional DevelopmentThere can be challenges to finding a great career mentor.  The idea of approaching someone can be intimidating and asking someone you do not already know may be somewhat uncomfortable.  Following are a few recommendations on how to overcome these challenges and obtain the mentoring relationship you are seeking.

  1. Be open-minded to partnering with a mentor that may be outside your current network. Mentors are everywhere and can be sought out in places such as professional organizations, churches, business groups, family members and within the work place.  Seeking a person with certain skill-sets or an approachable personality may help identify a possible mentor that can provide the growth you are seeking.
  2. Decide your specific goals and objectives of a mentorship. Prior to approaching a potential mentor, be able to clearly identify expectations of yourself and the person that will become your career mentor.  Be prepared to discuss your expectations and to determine of the potential mentor has the ability to assist in your success.
  3. Arrange to meet or speak with the potential mentor. Meeting or speaking with the potential mentor should take place in a comfortable setting.  Plan for it to be a conversation that could lead to brainstorming about common interests and ways to help each other grow from the experience.  It should also be in a setting that allows for confidential details to be discussed.

Once you find a person who agrees to be your mentor make sure you share the same commitment to your expectations. Be clear on the time required and the availability of your mentor. Do not be discouraged if a potential mentor is not able to oblige your request. Be mindful that mentoring requires time and commitment.  It would be in your best interest that someone recognizes they cannot commit to a mentorship rather than give a half-hearted effort that will not benefit you in the end.

As an HR professional I have found it to be a significant benefit and good fortune to have two wonderful mentors.  They are both high level and high profile HR professionals that are available to me for discussions on any level of complexity.  The highlight of my mentor relationships was the opportunity of my two phenomenal mentors to meet, immediately bond and in turn develop a peer relationship.

The Best Considerations for a Cost Effective and Fun Weight Loss Program

The Best Considerations for a Cost Effective and Fun Weight Loss Program!It’s the New Year! The time is upon us once again when we, along with many of our friends and colleagues, embrace the symbolic opportunity to begin anew, embrace forgotten goals, realign dreams and LOSE WEIGHT!  I’m sure we have all experienced the wave of new diets, spike in gym memberships and the annual office weight loss competition. Even within the Helios organization a few of our Business Partners joined together in support of the quest to lose a few pounds. Fortunately, there is now supporting research that encourages work place weight loss competitions. According to one study, paying people to lose weight works, but encouraging competition or group effort may make it work more effectively.

Various studies have shown the office is a great environment for workers looking to shed extra pounds.  A Tufts University study found that workers who completed a weight loss program and behavioral counseling program at their place of work lost an average of 18 pounds over a six-month period.  “Offices are really wonderful settings for weight-loss groups,” said Sai Krupa Das, a scientist in the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at Tufts University. “Co-workers have established relationships, creating an automatic support system and level of comfort. There is also the benefit of not having to set aside as much additional time for weight management. It can be built right into the work day.”

Have you thought about implementing a weight loss program or competition in your organization?  There are several reasons an employer should support health initiatives in the workplace.  Following are only a few of the many benefits of having an employer supported weight loss program:

  • Having healthier employees improves attendance as well as job performance.
  • Encouraging employees to lose weight can strategically lower health insurance claims, which in turn helps reduce the potential for annual rate increases.
  • Weight loss competitions promote employee interaction, build relationships and encourage team members and become more active participants in the work place.
  • Employees that achieve a level of success in the weight loss competition, weather they win or lose, are proud of themselves as well as their teams.  This pride creates self-esteem and willingness to participate in other team initiatives.

A US News and World Report article outlines the details of a workplace weight loss study conducted by Dr. Jeffrey Kullgren.  In this study, there were 105 employees of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia participated.  Their ages were between 18 and 70.  The participants were considered obese and their weight loss goal was one pound a week.  The members were divided as follows:  (1) a group financial incentive, (2) an individual financial incentive and (3) control group with no financial incentive.

In the individual approach, employees were offered $100 for each month they met or exceeded weight-loss goals. For the other, groups of five employees were offered $500 a month to be divided equally among only the members who met their goals. Those who didn’t meet their goals received no money. And lastly, a control group was created to compare the two strategies to one in which people had no financial incentive. Those participants got a link to a national weight-control website, along with monthly weigh-ins supported by email or text reminders. The potential upfront cost to an employer was the same for either of the financial incentive strategies.

After 24 weeks, participants in the group-incentive plan lost about 7 pounds more on average than those who were in the individual plan, and an average of almost 10 pounds more than those in the control group. Twelve weeks after the program ended, those in the group incentive plan maintained more weight loss than those in the control group, but not more than those in the individual incentive plan.

An analysis of the study supports that “Some amount of money constantly at stake each month — a goal and a reward — does seem to be a mechanism to help people make slightly better decisions,” said Riis, a researcher in the study and an assistant professor of business administration at Harvard Business School. In general, people seek immediate gratification.  This is reason enough that businesses should consider offering frequent cash incentives that incorporate at least a weekly progress report.

Implementing a weight loss program is a win-win incentive for both the employee as well as the employer.  The opportunity to provide an engaging, fun and healthy purposed competition can be fulfilling and encouraging for the team.  Following are links that may provide helpful resources for implementing or improving your organization’s weight loss program.

Engaged Employees vs. Disengaged Employees - Determining Your Workforce

Engaged EmployeesLet’s face it, engaged employees drive your business. Think of the employee who is aligned with the mission and vision of the organization…s/he produces quality work with a great attitude, “thinks outside the box” and creates new and exciting ways of improving productivity and affecting the bottom line. But what happens when you discover that you have disengaged employees in your organization? Productivity is down, morale is often affected, and you aren’t reaching your goals. How do you know when you have gotten to that point? Let’s talk about some of the indicators of disengaged employees.

  1. What is the tone of your executives? Are they engaged? According to a recent Gallup Business Journal article, “if executives aren’t engaged, employees won’t be either.” Take a look at your organization from the top to see if the culture that you want is being driven.
  2. Do you feel energy and excitement when you talk to your employees? Engaged employees are excited to be at work. They are aligned with the mission and vision, and their excitement is infectious.
  3. What do you do when your employee’s behavior seems to be different than usual? A change in behavior usually indicates that something is different for them. It could be personal or professional, but taking the time to check it out shows the employee that you are concerned about them as a person. That goes a long way to building trust in an organization.
  4. Is your organization hitting its goals? If not, what do you think is causing that? Chances are reasonably good that it is because employees are not feeling strong about their current positions, or the direction of the organization.
  5. Have employees voiced concerns about compensation and benefits programs not being at the level of other organizations in the industry? This could be a key indicator that employees are not happy with their present situation and may be considering looking for another opportunity.
  6. Are employees publicly recognized for their contributions? It is often said, “rewarded behavior is repeated behavior”. Take the time to reward the employees who are helping your organization achieve its goals.
  7. Do employees voice concerns about communication, saying they don’t feel informed? This is a common reason for employees to feel disengaged. Employees work their best when they understand what is expected of them, and when they have a direction toward which to work.
  8. Do you and your managers find yourselves handling more employee relations issues than you think you should? This is important, as engaged employees are typically more in line with the company culture and are generally less high maintenance.
  9. Have you struggled with EEOC claims, excessive investigations, or even lawsuits?

All of these areas are indicators that there are issues with the culture of your organization. The more data you can obtain about the condition of your culture, the better. Employee satisfaction surveys are a great way to collect some of that data. Don’t have the money or manpower to put one together? Consider applying for an award (like “Best Places to Work” from your local Business Journal). Many require an employee survey be completed to receive feedback from the employees directly, enabling the award committees to analyze the condition of the culture, and will provide you with valuable feedback for improvements. You can find awards for which your organization may be eligible to apply online.

Exit interviews are another great way to collect data. These discussions help determine the reasons that employees are leaving, and collect suggestions on ways to improve the culture and processes of an organization. Situations in need of investigation can even come out of these interviews. The number of employees leaving (turnover rate) and the reasons they are leaving should be compared to other organizations in the same industry to determine if there are issues that should be addressed. Many Human Resources executives use this data to create a project or action plan from which to work.

What is your organization doing to retain its key employees? Key employees are those who are either in key positions in the organization, who have valuable institutional knowledge, or who produce work product that exceeds expectations. Essentially, these are the employees whose loss would create a significant impact in the productivity of the organization. There is much information available that addresses how best to retain key employees.

For a look at the ways many top organizations in the Washington, DC area are engaging employees, please see our white papers, “Growing and Developing Your Employees“, “Rules’ of Engagement“, and Engaging Employees in an Economic Downturn — Effectively Leveraging Total Rewards“. These papers can give you some great ideas to improve your employee engagement.

Taking a deep dive into your culture can reveal a lot to you about your organization. Take the time to look at it, and watch your organization move toward meeting (or even exceeding) its goals!

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