Archive for the ‘Vitality’ Category
|As the year winds down, the folks at OrgVitality wanted to take a step back and share with you what we have accomplished this year and what 2013 seems likely to bring.|
Top Client Employee Survey Lesson of 2012:
Surveys should be uniquely “You” – If you can’t find elements of your organization’s unique strategy or you can’t even tell your industry from your survey (or other measurements), then you aren’t doing it right.
|2013 January Workshop:
Maximize Performance While Preparing for Growth: Business Insights Successful Leaders Gain from Employees. We are rolling out a hands-on Workshop Series on Strategic Organizational Metrics, with a January 29th kickoff workshop in New York City at the SUNY Global Center. For more information see: OrgVitality Workshop.
|2012 Company Accomplishments:|
We signed a multi-year contract to conduct Starwood’s employee survey covering 155,000+ employees. The survey will be offered in 41 languages and the reporting will be available in 17. Starwood owns 9 hotel brands including Sheraton, Westin, St. Regis, W, Le Meridian, Aloft, Four Points, Element, and the Luxury Collection.
Under our General Services Administration MOBIS award, we completed our first employee survey for the US Army.
Other types of projects conducted in 2012: employee surveys, customer surveys, linkage and statistical analyses, metrics, strategy meeting facilitation, executive coaching, 360 assessments and merger-related research.
Industries served included: Financial Services, Hospitality, Insurance, Manufacturing, Non-Profit, Retail, Technology, HR Consulting, Education, Government & Policing Agencies.
Significant updates were made to our survey technology suite, called OrgView™, including modules for Org Coding, Ad-Hoc Reporting, Action Planning and new version of PowerPoint report generator.
Our “Manager as Coach” training program and 360 Assessment were developed and implemented.
OrgVitality is pleased to announce the establishment of a technology development center (TDC) in Zikhron Yaacov, about 40 minutes north of Tel Aviv. This technology group will have staff in both Israel and the USA.
We are also excited about new locations opening in 2013 in Stuttgart /Zurich and London. Our OV Stuttgart/Zurich location will be headed by Dr. Ingwer Borg, a long-time survey research guru. Our London affiliate (Batson Consulting) will be headed by Deborah Smart, who was responsible for the employee survey for many years at BP. Along with Geneva, these new locations will greatly enhance our European presence.
Additional project management, programming and statistical staff have been added in New York and San Francisco.
For the United Nations:
We support Save the Children by providing management coaching services
We have helped support/been involved in/delivered speeches, papers at a number of professional organizations including: the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Human Resources People and Strategy, and Mayflower (an international consortium of corporations to share survey norms and practices).
Our migration of servers to a Chicago-based SAS 70 Type II Data Center (currently highest standard in use) has been completed. The new facility is SSAE 16 SOC 1 and SOC 2 compliant, audited by a 3rd party, and is currently undergoing a PCI Level 2 audit. (I have no idea what most of that means but the tech guys made me put it in.) Additionally, we renewed our Safe Harbor Certification by US Department of Commerce for handling personnel data from European Union, Swiss Federation and Canada.
|If you would like to learn more about us, do not hesitate to call or email: 1.914.747.7736, ContactUs@OrgVitality.com.
Maximize Performance While Preparing for Growth:
Business Insights Successful Leaders Gain from Employees
Many business professionals today face the same challenges:
- How do I both reinvigorate a recession-weary workforce while achieving organizational strategic goals?
- How can I create a climate for innovation without sacrificing current performance?
- What is the best way to lead an increasingly diverse and global workforce without losing sight of what made us successful in the first place?
Jeffrey Saltzman and Scott Brooks of OrgVitality will guide you through this one-day intensive session as we explore these issues and many more you may be dealing with in your current organization. See our agenda of modules below for more detail on what the day will entail.
Based out of Midtown Manhattan’s SUNY Global Center at 116 East 55th Street, the seminar is easily accesible by car or public transit. The event will include light refreshments, lunch and seminar materials at a cost of $125.
“You are going to have to help me with this people thing.” That was what the ex-McKinsey consultant turned CEO of a major Fortune company told me years ago. He was the nicest guy. He explained to me how he could handle all of the financials to run his company but this whole people thing, what motivated them, what concerned them, he just couldn’t get his arms around that. He was baffled. What to him seemed like simple business decisions, trim here, reorganize there, in order to fine tune his company’s financial performance resulted in all sorts of emotional morale issues. “Why didn’t people see the obvious?” He thought that there should be no emotions involved in financial business decisions, that if he did what was best for the company, to ensure its survival, that people should not mind (or at least not get emotional about) being moved around like pieces on a chess board, even if it meant losing their jobs. While this company had solid financial performance, it also had a fairly high degree of turnover, with some employees after a pretty short period of time feeling burned out and not being able to continue with the firm. Yet this company also had a high degree of employee commitment and employee loyalty. How was that possible?
I participated in a graduation recently. A group of MBA student’s to whom I taught a leadership class were graduating with their degrees in hand. It was extremely emotional in a positive way for the students, their families and friends that were present. The students were smiling from ear to ear and the parents were beaming. As each student came across the stage, amid the flashing of cameras, I rose shook their hands and congratulated them on their achievement. As each student passed me, I wondered “what direction will their lives now take?”
Sense of Direction. Having a clear sense of direction, a sense of mission regarding what the organization (an organization can be anything from a poker club to a nation state) is going to accomplish, and how people can personally and meaningfully contribute to that goal will affect one’s overall sense of well-being and happiness. It helps to increase a sense of purposefulness which in turn can greatly impact people’s sense of commitment and loyalty to the organization. Most people struggle with this, looking for a sense of direction and purposefulness for at least a portion of their lives, others struggle with this for most of their lives. For the newly-minted MBA’s, they are at an inflection point, where they will be examining the decisions they have made so far and will be reflecting on a host of choices they now have which will affect their own sense of direction and sense of purpose.
For an organization, clarity on this subject allows members to self-select, for if I don’t agree with the goals of the organization (stated or otherwise), or what the organization perceives as my role in helping it to achieve those goals, it is pretty clear, that if I can, I should leave. Over time, with a clear sense of direction (stated or otherwise), what an organization can achieve is a fairly tightly knit core of people who are extremely dedicated, ferociously loyal to helping the organization achieve its goals. And yes, there is a risk that too tightly knit of a group will put goal achievement and gain for this core above all else including societal or customer well-being, potentially bending or breaking various articulated operating standards, societal rules, regulations or laws. An inner core can arise, and as C.S. Lewis pointed out a long time ago, people will do almost anything to become part of the inner circle. As with everything there needs to be a sense of balance, swinging too far in any direction is generally not good for people, the organization or society at large.
Knowing where an organization is going, what it stands for and the values it will employ while getting there can be critical to actually getting there. Each person having a sense of direction and knowing how they can contribute to that direction is a fundamental building block for organizational performance and morale.
One aspect of sense of direction having a positive impact is movement, or the direction of the sense of direction. People tend to get frustrated with stagnation and get unhappy pretty quickly about what is perceived as a backward slide, even if that slide is relatively small and from a very high place or performance level. People notice and feel positive or negatively about the direction things are headed, oftentimes more than the absolute level of the measure suggests that they should.
For instance, as we have measured Employee Confidence over the years, what we see are increases and decreases in Employee Confidence on a national level that are related to the direction of a nation’s economy and not the absolute level of economic performance. Employee Confidence goes up if conditions (e.g. unemployment levels, GDP growth) are seen as improving and it declines if conditions are perceived as dropping, regardless of the absolute levels of those conditions. Employee Confidence can be very high in rapidly developing economies as people feel that conditions are improving and that their economy is on the rise, even if the absolute economic standards are pretty low. Likewise, Employee Confidence can be low in highly develop economies with high standards of living if economic performance is seen as in decline.
As humans, we tend to perceive events and make judgments on a relative basis and not on an absolute basis. What tends to becomes normal is relative to what we routinely experience. But every once in a while we are able change the standard dramatically when a critical mass of organizational members compares what they are experiencing to other extra-organizational standards.
Let me illustrate relative decision-making in a simple fashion. Say you needed a pair of shoes and had your eye on a pair that normally costs $300. You are prepared to spend $300 on those shoes. You open the Sunday paper and see that a store 40 minutes away across town has those same exact shoes that you have been thinking of purchasing for half-off or $150. Would you be motivated to drive across town to buy your shoes at half-price? Many people are inclined to do that. Now say you needed to purchase a new car. You are looking at a car that costs $27,900 at a new car dealer near your house. You are prepared to spend $27,900 on that new car by financing it with the bank and paying it off over 5 years. You open the Sunday paper and see that same exact car for $27,750 at a new car dealer 40 minutes away on the other side of town. Would you drive across town to buy that car? Many would say no. Yet in these two examples in each case the buyer would save $150 on the purchase price. You could use that $150 to purchase the same exact things, regardless of where the savings came from, 2-tickets to a Broadway show (partially obstructed view), or a hot dog at Yankee Stadium. Yet there is a tendency for people to be more willing to save $150 when it represents a larger portion of the purchase price, rather than when it represents a smaller percentage. We make relative and not absolute judgments on how worthwhile the savings are.
The same holds true at the organizational level. If organizational performance is seen as improving relative to where it currently is, employees tend to be more upbeat regardless of the absolute starting level of that performance and if it is perceived as in decline, employee spirits will also be in decline (even if you are still the best in your industry). So how could the CEO I mentioned lead a company that achieved high levels of employee commitment and loyalty, even as people were burning out? The answer is that it was an exciting place to be, they were cutting edge, an industry leader with rapidly rising levels of performance, beating the competition and with a clearly articulated vision of where the company was going.
© 2012 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
Visit OV: http://www.orgvitality.com
“But if you will it, it is not fantasy” – Theodor Herzl
Recently, virtually every organization that I speak with has put innovation front and center as a necessary, in fact imperative characteristic of their organizational cultures. The thinking is clear. In order to thrive in turbulent environments organizations must innovate, must examine the way they do business, update their products and services, and must differentiate themselves in order to outperform the competition. Competition, environmental stress and the need to survive as an organization spur on innovation.
Innovation is often described as coming in bursts, but much more common is the rolling-up-the-sleeves, hard work, incremental innovation, building on other’s breakthroughs, often in a collaborative fashion, that over the long run can radically change the way things work and the products that an organization offers.
It could easily be argued that innovation occurs naturally among all of the earth’s creatures. Species innovate constantly and naturally in the never ending battle to survive. One species of cuckoo finch has eggs that mimic the coloration of another species so that when the finch deposits their eggs into the other species’ nest, the hatched baby birds are raised by the tricked surrogate parents. As a defense the second species, the tawny-flanked prinias evolved more colorful eggs that looked different form the finch’s eggs but the finches responded by evolving and again mimicking the more colorful eggs. Evolution is innovative.
The mitochondria that inhabit our cells and produce the energy which powers cells originated externally from the cells they now inhabit. They have their own DNA and can reproduce only from their own DNA, indicating that they were a separate life form somewhat like bacteria. Prior to their role in our cells they existed independently. Mitochondria entered into a symbiotic relationship with cells and then that combined organism evolved into the variety of cells that make up human beings. Today we would not be able to survive without these creatures living within our cells and the mitochondria would not exist without us. Evolutionary innovation is often collaborative.
Beyond evolving on a biological front, humans evolve and innovate their behaviors constantly if not quickly, with our ancestors developing new forms of stone tools over millennia, fire being tamed, the taking up of living in shelters of one sort or another, and placing metal strips on the teeth of our children to improve function and appearance.
Many of the inventions that propelled our civilization and were described as deriving from “ah-ha” moments were nothing of the sort. Rather the innovative breakthrough came from groundwork that laid the foundation and was then built upon. Basic innovations often sit dormant until additional development work and insights are gained allowing the innovation to be applied in day-to-day life.
Take Edison’s light bulb for instance. It is often credited to Edison as a singular event. And in fact Edison played a very important role in the light bulb, but without the innovations of those who came both before and after him the light bulb would not have become as wide spread as it has. Here is a chronology of the major milestones.
• The first electric light was made in 1800 by Humphry Davy. When he connected wires to his newly invented battery and a piece of carbon, the carbon glowed, producing light.
• Much later, in 1860, physicist Sir Joseph Wilson Swan was determined to devise a practical, long-lasting electric light. He found that a carbon paper filament worked well, but burned up quickly. In 1878, he demonstrated his new electric lamps in Newcastle, England.
• In 1877, Charles Francis Brush manufactured some carbon arcs to light a public square in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. These arcs were used on a few streets, in a few large office buildings, and even some stores. Electric lights were only used by a few people.
• Thomas Alva Edison experimented with thousands of different filaments to find just the right materials to glow well and be long-lasting. In 1879, Edison discovered that a carbon filament in an oxygen-free bulb glowed but did not burn up for 40 hours. Edison eventually produced a bulb that could glow for over 1500 hours.
• Lewis Howard Latimer improved the bulb by inventing a carbon filament (patented in 1881); Latimer was a member of Edison’s research team, which was called “Edison’s Pioneers.” In 1882, Latimer developed and patented a method of manufacturing his carbon filaments.
• In 1903, Willis R. Whitney invented a treatment for the filament so that it wouldn’t darken the inside of the bulb as it glowed.
• In 1910, William David Coolidge (1873-1975) invented a tungsten filament which lasted even longer than the older filaments. The incandescent bulb revolutionized the world. (Enchanted Learning).
Rather than being the exception the “evolution” of the light bulb is very often how innovation occurs with multiple people contributing, often working collaboratively over a period of time.
There are multiple methods available for measuring the existence of innovation in organizations. You could count the number of patents issued to the organization, or the age of each of its product’s since design, the amount of time that employees spend on innovation, the R&D budget, the headcount assigned to “innovation”, or the perceptions of the customers towards the organization’s products and services as being innovative. One method for measuring the degree of innovation in organizations is through the perceptions of the employees.
Employee surveys will often ask about the “emphasis” on innovation within the organization, but I prefer asking about whether innovation is actually occurring. Critical when measuring innovation through employee surveys is to ask about:
• the generation of innovative ideas;
• the ability to test out those ideas from a funding and other resources standpoint;
• the ability to evaluate innovations to see which one’s should be implemented organization-wide and which ones rejected.
Examining or asking about the reward system is also often very informative as an organization may truly desire to be innovative, but is actually rewarding its employees for playing it safe and not trying new things rather than the innovative efforts desired.
Slack and redundancy are two concepts that are also critical to be in place for an organization to successfully innovate. If an organization is being run in such a tight fashion with no slack so that it can’t try new things, because all resources are dedicated to getting the work done the traditional way, the ability to be innovative does not exist. And likewise if the organization does not have the ability to experiment with new methods, while another redundant process is performing in a traditional fashion, the evaluation of innovative ideas and processes will be very difficult to objectively assess.
Organizational innovation is critical and creating organizational cultures that support innovation rather than suppress it is within reach for all organizations.
© 2012 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
“When I die, I want to die like my grandfather who died peacefully in his sleep. Not screaming like all the passengers in his car.” – Will Rodgers
Go outside and pick up a handful of dirt. Your life and the life of most creatures on this planet is possible not because of what you see in the dirt but largely because of what you don’t see. At the micro-scale the Earth teems with life, much of it overlooked by us as we wend through our daily routines. This largely unnoticed life is more than important to the health of our planet for it forms the very foundation upon which other life can exist. Without the smallest of creatures, the mirco-organisms which create the conditions upon which other life depends, the earth would be barren, unable to support our existence. Being human, a good chunk of us do our utmost to destroy these foundational creatures, or due to our obliviousness, like the grandfather who fell asleep at the wheel, make their existence as tenuous as possible.
Organizational surveys as they are often currently conducted like to measure the “big picture”, but I have begun to wonder if those of us who conduct surveys for a living are missing the leaves because all we tend to focus upon is the beauty of the forest. But without the leaves the forest will die.
The notion is this. There are fundamental underlying conditions that need to be present within an organization for that organization to truly thrive for the long term. These fundamental conditions form the basic building blocks of organizational life and hence success. I think we have intuitively known about this and there are historical questions, which I now think of as primitive attempts to get at these conditions that have existed on surveys for a long time.
Take for instance an item that asked employees to rate their co-workers. This item tries to go beyond the formal structures of the organization, training or lack-thereof that the workers have received, the pay or benefits they obtain etc. It tries to get at something more underlying – do you like/respect/want to be around the people you interact with day-to-day? It was pretty much a constant in surveys up until about 5 or so years ago. The typical response to that item was in the mid-80 percent or higher on favorability. In other words people in general liked their co-workers. It was really unheard of for this item to be unfavorably rated. It just did not happen.
When all else in an organization was rated poorly, you could always turn to the management team and say, well at least people like their co-workers, that is a starting point, a place from which you can build. But now I think it was simply a poorly written question, for while people did indeed like their co-workers it clearly did not get at the fundamentals, the micro-organisms necessary for the organization to thrive. There is also an issue with very positively rated items, in that they have imbedded in their response pattern less information then items that are more moderately rated and hence the organization can learn little from these items. The same could be said of the generally derided item about having a best friend at work.
Physicists use something called an effective theory approach for problem solving. It is an approach that utilizes the theory that makes most sense at the distances or object size that you are studying. Newton’s theory of gravity is just fine if you are on the earth’s surface studying an apple falling from a tree, but Einstein’s approach to gravity is necessary if you want to be able to solve problems that involve planetary distances. And Einstein’s theory does not work at the sub-atomic or quantum level. For that you need string theory. This approach implies that organizational surveys should ask about only those things you could hope to measure and see within the organizational world at the distances or sizes you are studying. The physicist’s approach implies that measuring the forest and ignoring the leaves is just fine if you can show that the forest is what leads to the outcomes that you desire, such as customer repurchase intentions. What is left out is that the forest will in fact perish if the conditions do not exist for the leaves to thrive, to create the forest in the first place.
It is very clear today that many approach organizational surveys without having a real understanding of the unifying state that allows us to measure the basic building blocks of successful organizational functioning, those things that are foundational to creating the conditions that allows an organization to thrive, to become vital over the long term.
I was recently sent a note about a document new Apple employee’s see it goes like this:
“There is work and there’s your life’s work. The kind of work that has your finger prints all over it. The kind of work that you would never compromise on. That you’d sacrifice a weekend for. You can do that kind of work at Apple. People don’t come here to play it safe. They come here to swim in the deep end. They want their work to add up to something. Something big. Something that couldn’t happen anywhere else. Welcome to Apple.”
Whether those conditions exist for each and every employee of Apple is of course a good question and one that I can’t answer here, but the notion that there is more to work than work is very clear. If everyone in every organization felt that way just imagine what we could accomplish.
© 2012 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.
|The ManagerCoach©: A New Workshop and Webinar Preview
Presented by David W. Bracken, PhD,VP, OrgVitality
May 1, 12:30pm-1:30pm Eastern, 9:30am-10:30am Pacific
|Organizations are placing more emphasis on the responsibilities of line managers to act as a coach in order to more fully develop their team members. The ManagerCoach Workshop© is a one day session led by an expert facilitator that integrates upward feedback with learning practice sessions to increase the ability of the manager to become a more effective coach.
Join Dr. Bracken, certified coach and feedback expert, for a complimentary webinar preview of the core content of The ManagerCoach Workshop©. Participants in the one-hour webinar will gain insights into the central concepts of The ManagerCoach©. Webinar attendees will later be able to implement a full Workshop at a 15% discount.
|About OrgVitality, LLC: OrgVitality is a management consulting firm that helps organizations make sustainable improvements in their operations and offerings, increasing their Vitality, allowing them to thrive in varied environments, and empowering them to excel in their unique organizational strategies. The firm consists of highly experienced and respected professionals in Human Resources, Operations and Marketing with technical expertise in Industrial Organizational Psychology, Organizational Development and research. Headquartered in Westchester, New York, OrgVitality’s services include employee surveys (e.g. culture, engagement, confidence, strategy, exit, on-boarding), focus groups, 360 surveys, coaching, assessment and selection, executive assistance, customer surveys, brand and market research (qualitative and quantitative). For more information, please visit www.orgvitality.com, email contactus@orgvitality or call (914) 747-7736.|
By guest blogger Scott Brooks
Employee engagement is important. It has well-acknowledged meaning and impact. It has the advantage of being universally applicable — virtually any organization with any type of employees should benefit from better measurement and understanding of how these employees connect to and add “oomph” to their work.
However, “engagement” is one possible focus for an employee opinion survey. By itself it does nothing. Like motivation, engagement without direction or ability is easily wasted. Also like motivation, engagement supplies energy. Measuring it alone is like measuring the gas in the gas tank without understanding the engine (aka an organization’s ability to create value). At risk of a metaphor getting out of hand, important elements to measure can also include steering (agility), shock absorbers (resiliency), or GPS (leadership).
Here is another metaphor: A focus on engagement is like a focus on individual concert musicians. A truly strategic employee survey designed to understand and improve the whole symphony experience would likely examine perspectives of the conductor, sheet music, concert hall acoustics, and audience feedback.
A strength of engagement—it’s universal applicability—is also a limitation. If an employee survey is to be strategic, it needs to measure strategic topics. In for-profit organizations, strategic success is based on differentiation from competitors. If Wal-Mart has the same strategy as Target, there is no competitive edge. Embrace all the best practices you want, but you cannot copy your way to competitive differentiation. Engagement, it follows, is not a strategic topic. Not by itself. As a topic it holds no uniqueness for a given organization. How an organization USES its engagement is where the unique, competitive edge will be found. Employee surveys are excellent tools for drilling into not just engagement, but how it can be used. How does an organization really create value? This is where surveys really become strategic and connect with the passions of executives. If a CEO could snap his or her fingers and have all the thousands of employees in an organization trying to improve one thing, what would it be?* Would a CEO choose service, sales relationships, inventing next generation products? Most often, leadership’s focus is on how an organization uses engagement, how value is created, and less on engagement itself. That doesn’t mean it isn’t important. But our job is to start with this focus, this engine, and then connect it to the gas tank.
(* This is one great definition of an employee survey, framing it in terms of action, not measurement.)
Linkage research is the statistical demonstration of relationships between engagement or other survey topics and business performance metrics such as sales, customer satisfaction, employee turnover, or safety. It can help guide businesses on where to focus limited resources in order to maximize success. Embedding surveys (including employee engagement surveys) into a more comprehensive, multi-faceted research program adds more value than when each piece of work is performed independently. Engagement surveys form a piece of the business success puzzle, but business success is a puzzle with many pieces. In fact, in head-to-head tests, the best predictor of customer loyalty is not engagement, but service climate. The best predictor of safety is not engagement, but safety climate. Similar statements can be said of quality, scalability, innovation, and a host of other important organizational outcomes. In short, if you really want to drive improvement in “X,” you had better ask about “X” in your survey.
Where this leads us is that employee surveys should not be simply about employees. Sure, we want to understand employee-centric topics, but employees are valuable sources of information about a much broader array of topics that help us understand and improve organizations. We wouldn’t advocate that all possible topics are always included in employee surveys, certainly. We want to be conscious about what we include and what we exclude. Addressing engagement alone is almost certainly sub-optimizing the effort. It is important not simply to ask employees about themselves, but to ask them about what they see around them. They have a lot to say about work and effectiveness.
For many in the HR marketplace, engagement unfortunately has become an end and not a means. We confuse the tool with an outcome unto itself. In doing so, engagement has become a mono-focus for suppliers interested in high production and also for time-stressed buyers who want something simple. It is certainly easy to create standard products and commodities based on engagement, a reasonably generic topic. But the real goal is sustainable organizational change. That is hard. That is custom. That is uniquely solved for each organization.
© 2012 by Jeffrey M. Saltzman. All rights reserved.