Are Your Employees All the Way In?

Employees can be fully “in” and performing well, checked out and simply filling space, or somewhere in between. This is called “employee engagement,” which can affect job satisfaction, productivity and teamwork. According to Gallup®, “… only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work.” Is this why we should care about employee engagement?

Gallup has conducted research for years regarding various levels of employee engagement and what those mean in terms of performance and business success.  Robyn Reilly of Gallup advises in her article, Five Ways to Improve Employee Engagement Now, “Converting this group of (not engaged) employees into engaged workers is the most effective strategy that any organization can implement to increase performance and sustainable long-term growth.” This begs the question:  How do we get employees more engaged?

The late Dr. Donald Clifton of the Gallup organization spent decades researching human nature and organizational behavior. One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Clifton, who founded the strengths movement, is:  What would happen if we studied what is right with people versus what is wrong with people?

Performance management has always been focused on trying to find ways to “fix” weaknesses in employees to make them better rather than looking at and enhancing their strengths. Weakness-fixing only prevents failure, whereas strengths-building leads to excellence.  Building on the strengths movement, Gallup research has shown that organizations that focus on their employees’ strengths and who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged in their jobs and three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life than those who don’t.  In addition, employees who know their strengths are also 8% more productive and teams that focus on strengths everyday have 12.5% higher productivity. Our society has few, if any, places where people can learn about their talents, in order to capitalize on their strengths.

Think about it:  if workers understand their strengths and those of their team members, they are more likely to find their work to be rewarding and motivating.  While on the job, those same employees are more likely to be involved, “here” instead of somewhere else mentally or just waiting until their next break.

Alber Enterprise Center has found CliftonStrengths® to be a valuable set of tools and a mindset for providing a pathway to better understanding and more creative, positive ways to get things done – together. Organizational leadership and management practice; vision, mission and values; and business performance, structure and value creation are all positively affected by focusing on individual strengths and how they build a cohesive team.

To learn more about how to bring out the best in your people and work toward increasing employee engagement, please contact Alber Enterprise Center, alber@osu.edu or call us at 740-725-6325 to start the conversation.

 

Where Are You Going?

Strategies for Organization Success.

It’s no secret that there are many factors directly linked to the performance of your organization. Possibly the most important of these factors, and most devastating when things go wrong, is your organization’s culture. At Alber Enterprise Center, we recognize culture as the collection of behaviors, beliefs, values, interactions, and attitudes that impact how things get done in your organization. These are reflected in your organizational processes, systems, communications, products/services, and most importantly your public image.

So what happens when your organizational culture doesn’t align with your organizational goals?

Well…you’ll find yourself fighting an uphill battle if you ever desire or NEED to create change to stay competitive. A culture that is aligned with strategic goals drives better performance, greater financial returns, clearer vision, and employees who are more motived, happy, and engaged.

Doesn’t that sound great? You’re probably wondering…how do we know if our culture is aligned with our goals? Or, if you have the inclination to believe that your culture is not aligned, you may be wondering…where do we begin to gain alignment?

You may have heard the saying “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Well, that can indeed be the case when your strategy doesn’t take into account your culture’s influence. What about positioning your culture to enable strategy? What about taking a positive perspective and focusing on your strengths to better enable your strategy? Research supports that leaders who invest the same energy in their cultures as they do other key performance measures experience greater organizational success.

Noted authors on organizational change and culture, such as Kotter and Cameron & Quinn, claim that today’s organizations must be able to successfully undergo change if they are to succeed in an increasingly complex and constantly shifting society. Change is imperative, yet organizations rarely meet their intended objectives. Leaders may set out to change the “shiny object” such as technical alterations in processes to try to improve performance; however, in reality it is typically a culture change that is needed for their organization to meet their objectives.

Can you imagine a culture that utilizes what your organization is doing well to help you do even better? Taking a strengths approach will allow you to create positive momentum and experience positive returns sooner than later. Here are four steps we at Alber believe are the ways to getting a strengths-based culture.

  • Gather information through structured assessments to fully understand your current situation
  • Assess the gaps between where the data reveals you are vs. your ideal situation for optimal performance and success in your organization
  • Determine how to move from where you are to where you want to be
  • Implement an intentional plan that engages your new strengths-based culture and mindset.

These strategies will move the needle to greater organizational success.

Building Customer Loyalty: 3 Ways to Move From Good to Excellent Customer Service

Have you ever thought about the difference between good customer service and excellent customer service?  Most of us would agree that there is a difference, but does it really matter? According to a recent survey cited on customerthink.com, 86% of buyers said they will pay more for a better customer service experience. And 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.

Providing good service will allow an organization to survive. But a commitment to excellent customer service goes beyond surviving – to building customer loyalty to create a healthy, thriving future.

True excellence is marked by an excellent customer experience (CX). The focus on providing excellent customer service encapsulates a simple, three-prong model.

Be Prepared. Being ready to serve the customer is the very foundation for excellence. If buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated, then it behooves organizations to spend some time getting to know their customers…what they value and what influences them, and ultimately, being proactive in anticipating their needs and problems.

In his book, Five Most Important Questions, Peter Drucker reminds us that our customers are never static. They are constantly changing, as well as their needs, wants, and expectations. Do the research and use customer analytics that make sense, not just satisfaction scores which only show customer satisfaction from the past.

Be Passionate. Being passionate encompasses taking the expertise (knowledge, skills, and abilities) of individuals in the organization and using it to create a shared-learning organization.  It is an organization in which customer service representatives (CSR’s) become experts, knowing their products and services, and how to do the ordinary, extraordinarily well.

In one study focusing on customer service loyalty, Harvard Business Review (HBR) found that 24% of repeat customer complaints stemmed from an emotional disconnect between the customer and the CSR. Specifically, this means the customer did not trust the answer given to them and/or they thought that the CSR was hiding something.

In order to meet customers’ constantly changing expectations and to provide an excellent CX, our representatives must be armed with interpersonal skills, training and a comprehensive knowledge which will allow them to respond more accurately and articulately, and to quickly find better solutions. Competence increases the customer’s confidence in the CSR and in the organization.

Be the Hero. Being the hero stems from the philosophy that every customer desires and deserves to be treated with respect and care.  Unfortunately, many organization miss the mark with this one! As representatives of an organization, we have the opportunity to make life better, easier, more convenient, and/or to create value in our customers’ lives through the products, services, and exchanges we offer.

According to the HBR article, the number one most important factor in customer loyalty is reducing customer effort. Long wait times, cumbersome paperwork, having to make repeated calls to solve a problem, or having to use multiple channels to get information are all frustrating to a customer. Organizations need to remove obstacles and get rid of things that make it hard for customers.

Being the hero not only involves removing obstacles but also taking every opportunity to add good stuff to the CX. Customers want quick, convenient transactions and products that are true to what is claimed. They want trustworthy representatives who can engage competently and respectfully whenever needed. The success of the CX is tied to the emotions of the experience. Help customers to feel important and valued, and let them know you care and appreciate their business. In doing so, they will walk away wanting to come back for more.

References

Dixon, Matthew, Karen Freeman, and Nicolas Toman.  Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers, Harvard Business Review

Drucker, Peter. Five Most Important Questions: Enduring Wisdom for Today’s Leaders, Wiley.

Jaiswal, Vivek. 8 Customer Experience Myths Busted, customerthink.com.

 

 

Employee Training: Part 1

DSCN0345When we ask “What is employee training?” it is not surprising that we get different responses.  Of course, no one particular answer is more correct than another.  One definition of training to consider is as follows: Training is the process whereby people acquire capabilities to perform jobs.  No company wants poorly trained employees.  Their mistakes can be very costly to your company.  Training provides employees with specific, identifiable knowledge and skills.  Sometimes we will talk about training and development together.  Development is different than training. Employee development is broader in scope and focuses on employees gaining new capabilities useful for both present and future employment.  Training may include “hard” skills and “soft” skills. A “hard” skill would be learning how to operate a machine or piece of equipment.  A “soft” skill would be how to effectively communicate with other employees.

In this series of articles, we will discuss several key components of employee training.  These include the following:

  • Training defined.
  • Strategic training approach.
  • Four phases of the training process.
  • Types of analysis to determine training needs.
  • Internal, external and e-learning training delivery methods.
  • Levels of training evaluation.
  • Intercultural competence training for global employers.

We have seen contemporary training in companies change considerably over the years.  Factors affecting the changes include the competitive environment and technology.  Four specific areas have been affected.  Each area is discussed below:

A. Organizational Competitiveness and Training

Companies realize that training their employees is important to a successful business.  Estimates say approximately $60 billion is spent annually on training in the U.S.  On average this expense is 1.5% – 2.0% of payroll expenses.  This data is from a study conducted by The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD).  Training can be compared to “continuous improvement.”  If your employees are not properly trained, you could lose competitive advantage in the market.  Retraining good employees is enhanced by an effective training program.

B. Knowledge Management and Training

Historically, competitive advantage among companies was measured in terms of physical capital.  Today, “intelligence” is considered a raw material used by “knowledge workers.”  Knowledge management is the way a company identifies and leverages knowledge in order to be competitive.  Technology can help transmit knowledge, but having technology does not mean employees will use it to manage knowledge effectively.  Knowledge management is a conscious effort to get the right knowledge to the right employees at the right time.  This way it is shared and implemented in your company.

C. Training as a Revenue Source

Many companies make a profit from selling training.  In some cases, training is included with a product purchase, for example, a new human resources information software package.  Purchasing a new machine for the production department can be less than successful without proper training from the manufacturer.  Future sales can be increased by providing product training.

D. Integration of Performance on Training

Job performance, training and employee learning must be integrated to be effective.  The link between training and job performance is critical.  Let’s look at safety fall protection personal protective equipment (PPE).  If your employees were simply shown a training video it is doubtful that the equipment would be used properly.  As an alternate method of training, the trainer could demonstrate how to properly put on the equipment, have the employees put the equipment on themselves and provide real-time feedback.  We think it is obvious which training method works better.  Other topics could incorporate everyday business issues as learning examples.  This would increase the realism of training exercises and scenarios.  This method integrates training, learning and job performance.

John M. Turner, Ph.D. is the President of JMT & Associates and a solutions partner who has been providing quality human resources consulting and training to Alber Enterprise Center’s clients for several years.  Please contact info@alberosu.com for more information on John’s services.

Coaching made me a better boss

consulting-board roomWhen I was hired as program director for Alber Enterprise Center in December 2011, I thought I knew how to be a manager and leader.  After all, for two decades I studied the best authors – Drucker, Collins, Covey, Buckingham, Friedman, and dozens more.  I witnessed a myriad of management styles in private business and public education, and listened to their employees’ reactions, praise and complaints, then eventually began teaching leadership development courses.  I knew the importance of listening, giving feedback, team building, problem solving, performance management, and conflict resolution skills; especially their role in engaging employees and moving the organization forward.  Yes, I felt confident in my abilities to lead my own team.

Myra Wilson, MS, SPHR, Program Director, Alber Enterprise Center

Well, I learned there is a difference between knowing and doing!  My personal style of working entails rolling up my sleeves and digging in, taking full ownership of all the details while visioning the future.  My new team was great, helping me understand our center’s history with clients and excited about the opportunities to develop updated programs.  After three years, we were holding our own but I knew we had so much more potential to make an impact.  Sensing we had stalled, I found myself wondering about my abilities as a leader.  Then a phone call from a certified coach transformed our team into a high speed powerhouse that doubled the number of delivered programs in six short months.

He called me in hopes of becoming one of our center’s educational partners; a partner in delivery of leadership training and coaching.  I decided that the best way to assess his qualifications was to try him out on our team.  He facilitated our strategic plan and provided follow-up coaching to help us implement our goals.

What did the coach do for each of us? 

  • Confidentially identified behaviors each team member wished to strengthen
  • Assessed our current level of skill in each of those behavioral areas
  • Assembled a plan of action for improvement
  • Monitored our progress through feedback and other objective means

I learned two key lessons during my coaching sessions that have helped take our center to a new level of performance:

  • Let go of the details and delegate them to others – stay focused on the big picture instead of getting “tangled in the weeds”
  • Empower others to take ownership of their jobs by using the coaching techniques I learned – listening more and speaking less, asking questions rather than directing, rewarding positive behavior, and sharing successes as a team

This external (and objective) assessment not only made me a better leader and manager but has also elevated the performance of our organization and its members in the process.

To fulfill your coaching needs, contact us for more information.

Three techniques in boosting your organization’s capacity

Continuous Process Improvement Graphic

Environmental and Quality Management Systems Consulting-Continuous Improvement Process (ISO-14001-2004 EMS & ISO 9001-2008 QMS)

When starting a continuous improvement (CI) project, the simplest and the most important thing to do is to communicate to your organization and clients that you want to continually improve the services provided.  State this intention through strategy reviews and team briefings.  This is the most effective way to get the CI culture moving.

Environmental & Quality Management Systems Consultant for Certified Environmental, Inc and JAS & Associates of Ohio, LLC

Larry W. Sheppard, Environmental & Quality Management Systems Consultant for The Ohio State University’s Alber Enterprise Center, Certified Environmental, Inc. and JAS & Associates of Ohio, LLC

To help us improve faster than the competition we should aim to empower the team to make improvement directly.  This has the advantage of boosting your improvement capacity; it also allows for far more hidden improvement opportunities to be realized.  Some organizations may tend to channel improvement activity through dedicated improvement teams or individuals.  This approach can be limited due to the lack of improvement capacity.  All team members can be encouraged to engage in improvement activity, maximizing the volume of change and improvement that can be achieved.  To achieve total team empowerment, a robust but simple change process should be introduced that allows all team members to make changes.

The focus should be on allowing all team members to make controlled changes by following a well-designed change process.  Improvement culture can be measured by the number of improvements identified and actioned by the organization.  It’s good practice to routinely report on CI progress back to the team and clients; this can underpin the organization’s commitment to continual improvement activity.

There are obvious commercial advantages that can be gained from a healthy and robust CI culture. However, it should also be pointed out that an empowered team will tend to be more productive due to the direct input from the owners into the business’s success.  Team moral can be greatly improved by encouraging their involvement.  Managed correctly, this team member responsibility can further improve an organization’s responsiveness and change of pace.  CI organizations are nice places to be, where team members are more likely to use their full potential.

There are many tools and techniques that can be used to help boost your team’s improvement capacity. Usually these require some training to be effective.  But it should be pointed out that specialized tools are not necessarily required to enable a successful CI culture.

3 Steps in Revamping Your Business Culture:

  • Kaizen:  Kaizen, or Continuous Improvement Teams can be encouraged to evolve to tackle specific improvement opportunities.  Groups can be trained to be more effective, but teams can also evolve organically without specific training.
  • Lean:  This training will help your team to become faster and reduce costs.  Lean training allows staff to identify and reduce wasted effort.  Usually deployed within an organization or group, this is the perfect training to support an established CI culture.
  • Six Sigma:  Six Sigma is best used to improve the standard of products and services by reducing output variation.  Six Sigma should only be used following good Lean and 5S development.

CI can be developed into any organization relatively easily and with little cost.  

Good management and leadership is the key to success.  By following the three simple steps above an improvement culture can flourish in your business.

Most CI projects require little or no cost.  An accumulation of several small improvements are sometime better than one large improvement.

Larry W. Sheppard is an Environmental & Quality Management Systems Consultant for The Ohio State University’s Alber Enterprise Center, JAS & Associates of Ohio, LLC, and Certified Environmental, Inc. His expertise is in implementing Environmental and Quality Management Systems for companies, preparing companies for their ISO Standards third party certification, providing Internal Auditor training and much more.

Visit our Contact Us Page or call 740-725-6325 to find out how our team can assist you or your organization in reaching your optimal success.

Why We Love Lean Six Sigma and You Should Too: Get Started

Norma Simons, President of Performance Innovation LLC and AEC Solution Partner

Norma Simons, President of Performance Innovation LLC and AEC Solution Partner

In today’s environment it is evident that the survival of organizations rests with their ability to innovate- to do things differently in order to grow.  In general we can consider two forms of innovation – radical innovation and incremental innovation.  Radical innovation can be considered as the ability to produce new products or services to the world that never appeared before – such as digital photography, Internet, Amazon, iPods, etc. Incremental innovation on the other hand can be thought of as new approaches, building on current products or processes to enhance performance.  In the end innovation of products, processes and services must add value to the customer.

Lean Six Sigma can be considered as an incremental innovative model that enables an organization to move beyond its traditional performance to new heights.

The figure below shows the definition of both concepts.

 Lean and Six Sigma are complementary and if performed properly, represent a long-term model that can produce unprecedented results.

Lean and Six Sigma are complementary and if performed properly, represent a long-term model that can produce unprecedented results.

We Love Lean Six Sigma because it provides:

  1. Focus on the customer – helping each area of the organization to understand the value of their service.  This concept is fundamental as without an understanding of needs and requirements of internal and external customers, the work provided is non-value added.
  2. Focus on process improvement – this concept is fundamental to Lean Six Sigma, without being able to identify and define processes, conditions cannot improve.
  3. Opportunities for collaboration – applying the concepts opens opportunities for collaboration as individuals now use tools to communicate across departments and encourage problem solving.
  4. Constant and continuous drive for perfection – it creates the mindset of dissatisfaction with the status quo and the need to be dedicated to a culture of continuous improvement.
  5. Standard Training – it provides common tools and language and a structured methodology for problem solving.  There are different levels of training provided to different individuals depending on their role in the organization:  Champion, Green Belt, Black Belt.
  6. Structure for change- it provides a project based approach that allows an organization to identify and instill a discipline for project management with project reviews conducted with process owners, champions and senior management.
  7. A means to provide total employee involvement –  all individuals are involved as they provide input and support problem solving activities.
  8. Demonstrates bottom-line Business Results – the bottom-line impact of every project must be measured, reported and documented.

Overall, we love it because it lays a path from strategy to execution.  Many companies have a vision but are weak on execution.  Through the structure, training, organization of tools Lean Six Sigma provides a path for achieving required results.  In addition, it can be customized to any industry and any organization.

Please contact us to use the Lean Six Sigma assessment to diagnose current weaknesses and establish a strategy for improvement.