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Good afternoon. My name is Alisha Noel, and I am the Administrative Associate at Pivotal Practices Consulting. I am pleased to welcome all of you today’s webinar – The Fundamentals of Engagement. This is the first webinar in a series focusing on employee engagement. We invite you to visit our website at pivotalpraactices.com for the complete schedule of webinars and to register.
Today’s webinar is being taped, and all participants will receive a link for the recording.
All participants are muted during the webinar. However, we invite you t type your questions in the question box.
Your hosts for todays’ webinar are Patrina Clark, President and Founder of Pivotal Practices Consulting and Allan Schweyer, Researcher, Course Designer, and Facilitator.
Patrina is a career member of the federal Senior Executive Service, having served 25 years in four federal agencies including the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the Federal Election Commission, the Department of the Navy, and the Internal Revenue Service. Patrina launched Pivotal in 2011 as a boutique management consulting firm that specializes in helping organizations operate more effectively. She has been the recipient of multiple awards as President and Founder of the firm, including SmartCEO’s Brava Award and Enterprising Women’s Award. The firm is also the recipient of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's 2016 Small Business Achievement Award.
Allan Schweyer is a long-time Pivotal partner, supporting the firm’s customized training solutions portfolio area. Allan is an internationally recognized thought leader and speaker in human capital management and the author or co-author of three books and hundreds of published white papers and articles. Allan has keynoted conferences and delivered workshops in more than 40 countries over the past decade. He has been recognized as among the “100 Most Influential People in HR and Talent Management.” In 2014, Allan founded and TMLU.org, a non-profit, online, open university for human capital management and leadership.
Again, welcome to everyone. I’ll now turn the program over to Patrina and Allan.
Thank you, Alisha. Welcome, everyone. It is truly a pleasure to be here with you today – sharing insights about perhaps one of the most important organizational topics ever – employee engagement. While talking with a prospective job candidate yesterday, he asked me what makes my company unique. I told him my answer is the same as for all other companies – my team. And, I would submit that the true competitive advantage – whether you are in the private, public, or non-profit sector – goes to those organizations whose employees are fully engaged.
Employee engagement has been a particular focus area in the public sector – with considerable attention to the declining overall engagement scores in recent years. But, low worker engagement is not unique to the federal government. In their recent report, Gallup reported that only 32% of U.S. workers were engaged in their jobs. The majority (50.8%) of employees were "not engaged," while another 17.2% were "actively disengaged.”
In our work with our clients, we find that most are very clear about the why of employee engagement –why it matters. But, where they often have challenges is the what and the how – what engagement really is – and what it isn’t – and how to really move the needle on employee engagement within their own organizations and keep the needle moving in the right direction.
In this webinar series, Allan and I will endeavor to bring greater clarity to the what and the how – with the caveat that there is no one-size-fits all solution to employee engagement. Rather, there are some leading practices and new insights that organizations can use to develop solutions that are right for them.
In this first webinar, we’ll focus on the drivers of engagement and offer strategies for using this knowledge. I’ll now turn it over to Allan.
Let’s look at what we know about engagement based on the work of philosophers, psychologists and scientists over the past several centuries.
Essentially, employee engagement is driven by human nature. This is a very good thing because the vast majority of human beings share the same human nature.
These are the near universal drivers of engagement that philosophers identified over the centuries and that psychologists have consistently confirmed over the past 100 years or so.
People are driven by their needs for autonomy, experimentation and learning; by their need for pride, purpose and meaning, and their desire to achieve goals and fulfill aspirations. People are almost universally driven by a need for belonging as well, to be treated with respect, included, consulted with and valued. These are the universal drivers of engagement.
First, let me explain as quickly as possible why were in the mess we’re in today, where only about one third of employees are engaged in their work.
Remember, before the Industrial Revolution, most workers in the United States were in agriculture. They had long but flexible hours, they worked hard but were outside, they had lots of autonomy and independence. But the industrial revolution came . One tractor replaced a hundred farmers. The good news is there were lots of jobs in the cities, in factories. The bad news was this was mindless, repetitive, work offering almost no autonomy at all. Independent farmer types were not suited to it. getting them to be productive, sitting or standing on an assembly line for 10 or more hours a day doing the same thing over and over was going to be challenging
So a new type of management was invented. To make workers comply … Not to make people happy at work Just to make them do what they were told
And it worked. It went against human nature but It worked well. Americans became more prosperous than ever A new middle class emerged And the United States was on its way to replacing Britain as the world’s most important and powerful country
So far so good
Then in 1922 the National Research Council sponsored groundbreaking research into human nature and behavior. Arguably, the first modern research on employee engagement.
The experiments were conducted at a now famous Western Electric plant in Chicago The Hawthorne Works, and, of course, I’m referring to the Hawthorne Experiments Maybe you’ve heard of it, It’s about how if you just play with the lighting in a factory and productivity goes up right?
Not really, in fact the experiments revealed no consistent correlation between worker output and lighting. But the Hawthorne experiments were critically important. They revealed universal truths about human beings and workers In eight years of intensive experimentation, just two consistent findings were reached. That by paying attention to employees – not just by changing the lighting – but by spending time in conversation with them and listening to them, productivity goes up. Way up. Even for monotonous, routine assembly line work. It also showed that the social ties between employees are incredibly important to productivity.
Unfortunately, nobody paid attention. Nobody cared. Workers didn’t matter, you could find them on the streets, no particular skills were needed So the Hawthorne Experiments faded into history, forgotten for the next 60 years or so.
But times change. The Industrial Age gave way to the Information Age. A new class of knowledge workers emerged who you couldn’t so easily replace. In 1985, Harvard professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld dusted off the Hawthorne research and reviewed it in the context of the Information Age at the time. His conclusion? Read the quote.
Since Sonnenfeld’s observation more than thirty years ago now, the evidence in support of his statement has grown overwhelming in size and effect.
So that brings us back to the present: 2016. Like I said before, about 2/3 of our workers are disengaged.
The management practices of the industrial age are so ingrained that only a small minority of organizations have managed to leave them in the last century where they belong.
But a few organizations have moved on
And almost without exception, they are the winners. The best places to work, the most productive, creative and valuable organizations on the planet.
Without question – and with rare exception – engaged organizations massively outperform organizations that aren’t good places to work.
What do these organizations do differently?
Well, they didn’t invent anything, human nature is the same now as it was at the time of the Hawthorne Experiments. In fact dozens of experiments before and after have revealed the same things about what motivates us as human beings.
The best leaders and managers simply work with human nature and not against it.
Again, rightly or wrongly, in the 1920s companies and leaders had little reason to care about human nature so they made a deliberate choice to stifle it and work against it.
But today we have little choice but to work with it, if we don’t we get average workers at best, people who put in their time and do what they need to do to get their pay.
As organizations and leaders, we have to unlearn the old ways and embrace the new.
The great news is that 99% of people are driven by the same few things, and you can give those things to your workers today, immediately.
The great organizations of our time are all very different but they have a few essential things in common too.
Here’ are those things:
Almost every one of us wants to do work we like, work that plays to our strengths, challenges us and gives us some say in how it gets done. That doesn’t mean everyone is equally independent. Some people like more direction than others, but everyone enjoys play, experimentation and discovery in their work.
And we’re hard wired for purpose and meaning. People want to know their work means something, that they’re contributing to something larger than themselves.
It’s also incredible what people will do when they see that light at the end of the tunnel – the hope the aspirations, the challenge. A medical intern might work 80 hours a week at terrible pay for a year because it gets them closer to their goal. Most of us have can think of a time when we sacrificed the now for the potential of something better in the future, when we believe we’re growing and learning we find great reserves of inspiration and motivation.
And people are driven by their need for inclusion, to be respected, listened to and valued.
Those 4 big things make all the difference in human motivation and engagement.
At this point though you’re likely asking yourself about other motivators.
For example, what about money? What about prestige and status?
Money and status are important motivators, and so is inertia. But they are negative motivators.
Powerful yes. But I’m going to demonstrate why relying on money and extrinsic rewards is counter-productive and not sustainable in the long run. Economic motivators are the least powerful of the negative motivators but powerful nonetheless. More powerful are economic motivators, I’ll get to that too. The most powerful though is inertia, that affliction that keeps you in a job and doing the same things just because you’ve been doing it that way for years, it’s too hard to change, etc.
Imagine two groups of college students. Both are asked to type UN on their keyboard repeatedly for 3 minutes, the more letters the better.
One team is offered nothing for their efforts. The other team is offered $300 if they can beat the other team.
Which team do you think wins?
You probably guessed the team that was offered $300 if it won. If so, you’re right. The team that stands to earn the $300 performs at about twice the rate of the other team in experiments like these.
Ok, now you’re part of the experiment!
This puzzle is also typically offered to two groups. One gets no reward for solving it, the other gets $300
The problem here is to find the two numbers that add to 10?
Ok, I’m just going to give you a few more seconds. Most people have it by now, let’s go! . Ok, well, how was that? Not a difficult task right? I’m sure you all got it. But it does make you stop, think and focus.
How did you feel when I said others had solved it faster than you? Did that make you work faster and better or did it distract you?
<<>No, in all likelihood, the pressure I put on you only distracted you.>>
What’s the other thing you noticed about this puzzle? When you saw it you were you curious?
Did you start to try to figure it out it before I’d even explained it?
If so, it’s because you have a natural human curiosity, an intrinsic motivation to play. In this case, to play the game because you see the word puzzle.
And what did I do when I pressured you or shamed you? Well, I stupidly distracted you from a very powerful and natural motivation and tried to replace it with a manufactured and far less effective one –competition, pressure, shame, etc.
So which team do you think does better on this experiment and experiments like it? The no reward team or the high reward team?
In experiments like this, groups that are offered the reward for completing the puzzle the fastest significantly UNDER perform against those who are offered no reward. The team that gets no reward does better than the team that is offered the reward – significantly better.
Why do you think that is??
In the simple, mindless game where you type the letters repeatedly, the high reward team does much better than the no reward team. That’s because when it comes to doing routine, mindless work, rewards and bribes work. But when it comes to thoughtful tasks --like I’m sure 90% of your work entails -- rewards, threats, pressure, shame and bribes don’t aid performance, they distract from it. Think about that as supervisors. The most powerful thing you can do to motivate and engage your team members is to tap their natural intrinsic motivations – to experiment, learn, improve and to do meaningful work.
Let me tell you a quick story about paying people to do something as opposed to leveraging their natural sense of play and curiosity. The story involves a professor who has take a sabbatical to write a book. He’s set up a desk in a solarium in the back of his house that overlooks a beautiful green space. He’s very productive in his new office until one day a group of children discover the park and start playing noisily. They return day after day so that the professor can’t get much done. One day, he decided to go out and have a word with the kids. He call their attention and points to his solarium office. He tells them how much he enjoys watching them play everyday and hopes they will continue. Top demonstrate his appreciation he hands each of them a crisp dollar bill and promises another one every day they show up and play. So, the next day comes, the kids show up and the professor goes out to pay them. This repeats foe the next three days, but on the fifth day the professor shows up empty handed. The kids demand their dollars but the professor says they’ve cleaned him out, he has no more money, whereupon the leader of the group of kids puts his hands on his hips and says “well, if you think we’re going to play here for free, you’re crazy.” and the kids run off never to return.
When you replace a person’s intrinsic and natural motivation to do something with an extrinsic motivation like money, you destroy their natural motivation and you have to keep paying them. Gradually, you have to pay them more and more to get the same level of motivation. That doesn’t mean we should all work for nothing, it simply means that leaders should be students of human nature and work with it rather than against it.
This is sort of an aside, but let me tell you a short story I think you’ll find entertaining.
As we all know, our simple schemes at driving performance often suffer unintended consequences In the 1880s the British Colonial Government in Delhi wanted to control the city’s Cobra problem. It ordered Indian peasants to catch the snakes and turn them in. It offered cash for every dead snake. Does anyone know or want to guess the results?
Right. They ended up with more snakes, many more snakes. Why? Because the Indians resented the British and their obnoxious leadership style. But, they did want the money. Remember, money and rewards motivate, no doubt about it. But thoughtless rewards don’t work. They make things worse. The incentives were gamed. Indian cobra hunters, quickly became cobra farmers. It was easier, less dangerous and far more lucrative to raise cobras than to hunt them. So snake farming in Delhi took off. And the British paid for a lot of snakes before they caught on. <L>
The Indians? They laughed all the way to the bank. <L>,
Money motivates, fear motivates, when people you care about or who you report to put pressure on you, it motivates.
But use these motivators at your peril.
They get people to do things but they typically harm all creative results and performance of any kind
Of course kids and British motivational schemes aside we all know that money can be the MOST important driver of engagement at work
But,ONLY if it is unfair and/or not-competitive.
As soon as it is fair and competitive, it falls away. In fact for federal government employees, it doesn’t even crack the top 25 as an issue on engagement surveys.
Most federal government employees join for other reasons, of course they want fair and competitive pay but they crave purposeful work. Meaning, something bigger than themselves to commit and contribute to.
So let me tell you a story about that. At the University of Pennsylvania three shifts of students call hundreds of alumni 5 days per week. They use scripts to ask people for donations toward the school’s scholarship fund. They are assessed on the length of their calls and the amount of money they raise. Very simple and straight forward. They dial for dollars and have no control over how they do it
The director of the call center asked Wharton professor Adam Grant to review his operation and see if he could improve productivity.
Grant agreed. He visited and asked to work with one of the three shifts – the one that was performing the worst.
First, Grant tore up the scripts. He told the team they should say whatever they want and take as long as they saw fit with each person they called. In doing so, he gave them autonomy and mastery over their work
After the team absorbed this information, he introduced them to a young man who then spoke to them for 5 minutes or so.
Care to guess what that young man spoke to them about?
He spoke to them about how the money raised for scholarships changed his life. How he could not have attended college otherwise and what their work in the call center meant to him.
Long story short … the shift went from raising an avg of $183 each per shift to over $500 per shift, all in the space of less than one month.
First: Give people the autonomy they need to figure out how to do their jobs the best way possible – tear up the script, let them take as long as they need to do it right, don’t micromanage. Just DONT tell people what to do, Describe the results you want and let them figure out the rest.
Second: Allow them their human need to get better at their jobs through learning and experimentation. Get rid of artificial, meaningless rules. In this case Grant got rid of the pressure to make some arbitrary number of calls per shift. After all, the metric that matters is the amount raised, not the number of calls made.
Lastly, maybe most importantly in this case, show them the purpose of their work. Connect it to the mission. We all need meaning to engage fully.
The greatest survival story of the 20th century began with an ad. Not an ordinary ad, this was arguably the greatest piece of copy ever written. It was placed in a London newspaper, and it read as follows: Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.
1800 miles of uninhabitable frozen terrain. The greatest polar journey ever attempted. With gifts and loans, he bought a ship which he named the Endurance. The famous ad was to find him the crew he needed. 5000 men applied for 28 jobs! They set sail in 1914.
Long story short, the ship got trapped in the ice, it was crushed and sank. The crew was stranded on a barren, frozen island to spend the entire Antarctic winter. Shackleton created routines to keep them busy, and organized games and music. All the while, he stayed infectiously optimistic and gave the men hope. Somehow, they all survived.
But once you start paying attention, you’ll see the evidence everywhere. This just happens to be the last book I finished, a few days back. Almost 100 years after Shackleton the song remains the same. People crave meaning, purpose and price. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. It’s an incredibly powerful emotion to tap.
Purpose and meaning are powerful forces of human motivation. But let’s not kid ourselves about the power of money, fame and emotional pressure either. Andre Agassi represents a long line of prodigies that were driven relentlessly by domineering parents. Agassi’s absolute need to live up to his father’s standards made him play a game he hated. And not only did he play it, he won three grand slam events, an olympic gold medal, became the world’s number one ranked tennis player, and arguably, the world’s best known athlete.
Thai is, until he crashed and burned.
In 1994, after finally reaching number one, Agassi wondered why he felt so empty, so depressed. At just 24 years old, Agassi began a descent into drugs, suffered a divorce, and went from 1st in the world to 144th by 1997.
He was so thoroughly forgotten in his comeback he had to start on playground courts, in tournaments that pay the winner a few thousand dollars.
But by this time Agassi was playing for something else. Not for his father and not for fame or money. He had discovered a purpose. Because he lived his childhood in fear and under his father’s complete control, he sympathized with children deprived of security or of an education. By 2015, Agassi’s education foundation had raised more than $180 million and changed countless lives.
And between 1997 and 2003, Andre Agassi went on to achieve even greater heights in tennis. He won 5 more Grand slams and became one of just 5 players in history to win all four, and he regained hiw world number one ranking. Agassi also grew to appreciate tennis and respect the game. His life changed in every way.
The positive power of purpose trumps the negative powers of money and pressure every time.
Remember too, that Agassi’s mission and purpose revolved around another important driver, belonging and inclusion. Agassi’s foundation strives to make excluded kids feel wanted, and that changes everything for them.
Inclusion and belonging mean respect, giving it and getting it. Listening and being listened to. Including others. There’s simply no way that a person who feels disrespected, not listened to, isolated and excluded is going to engage and perform, just think about it.
Inclusion isn’t all about diversity, if you look at the FEVs Inclusion Index you’ll see a lot of questions about the relationship between employees and their direct supervisor. This is for them, the most important relationship they have at work. The better it is the better they feel and the better they do.
Our research confirms this. Nothing drives engagement more directly than the elements of pride, respect and inclusion.
Ok, so we’ve talked about how the workforce has changed, behavior has shifted, management and leadership has to as well.
The positive motivators we’ve been talking about – purpose, autonomy, mastery, respect, experimentation, listening, learning, and so on are powerful because they are in harmony with human nature.
They tap our intrinsic needs to learn, bond, find purpose in our work, experiment, and work toward our potential.
So, If you remember these things and lead people according to them, you’ll be halfway there.
Yes, only halfway. You can’t just say you’re going to lead according to these drivers and do it, doing so requires real behavior and culture change
And this is critical … we’re all different. We engage for similar reasons but we disengage for countless individual reasons. And that’s what makes leadership so difficult. As Tolstoy said in Anna Karenina, all happy families are alike, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. The same can be said for individuals.
What makes leading and inspiring people so difficult is we have to observe and lead according to the powerful, universal drivers of engagement AND we have to do it slightly differently for each and every person.
So, we hope you’ll join us in future webinars where we’ll build on the foundations we’ve laid today and talk about the other aspects so important to ispiring and engaging yourself and others.
Fundamentals of Engagement
The Fundamentals of Engagement
Pivotal Practices Consulting LLC Webinar Presentation – August 31, 2016
Designer & Facilitator
Patrina M. Clark
Pivotal Practices Consulting LLC
Source: “Employee Engagement in U.S. Stagnant in 2015” by Amy Adkins
1. Understand the fundamental drivers of engagement in
2. Know how to use that knowledge
“From the leadership point of view today,
organizations that do not pay sufficient
attention to people and the deep sentiments
and relationships connecting them are
consistently less successful than those that
Shedding Light on the Hawthorne Studies, 1985 by
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld Professor of Management, Emory, Harvard and Yale
Autonomy, Experimentation, Improvement – doing the work your way
Mission, Meaning. Working toward a shared purpose larger than
Learning, Mastery, Career Aspirations: Working toward something of
great personal value and meaning
Being included, listened to, consulted with, valued. Belonging
“ The Army sent me a letter during my
junior year at Dartmouth, promising to
pay for graduate school. The Navy and
Air Force did the same, promising skills
and special training. The Marine Corps
“Remember this. Hold on to this. This is
the only perfection there is, the perfection
of helping others. This is the only thing
we can do that has any lasting value or
meaning. This is why we’re here. To make
each other feel safe.”
“The evidence – including data from the EVS … suggests very
strongly that an inclusive workplace is among the most important
levers of engagement, and, in the US federal government, perhaps
the strongest driver of all.”
FEVS Indices: Correlation to Engagement Index
Respect, Listen & Include