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Increasing Productivity

Why Employee Engagement Programmes Backfire And What You Can Do About It

To create true engagement among employees, leadership teams need to first understand what employees want.

John Boitnott

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In recent years, employee engagement programmes have become part of business leaders’ efforts to improve morale in many organisations. The thought is that by paying for you to take part in training programmes or join trade organisations, your boss assumed they could make you more engaged at work. It’s all part of a movement toward finding new ways to motivate employees.

Unfortunately, these methods probably aren’t working for many employees. According to a study from EMPLOYEEapp, of the 71 percent of surveyed employers who have implemented employee engagement initiatives, only 37 percent believe their employees are actively engaged.

Training courses are the most popular form of employee engagement, followed by open-door policies and reimbursements for memberships in industry groups.

Related: 4 Reasons Why Your Best Employees Leave for New Opportunities

Why they fail

The EMPLOYEEapp research wasn’t the first study on the effects of employee engagement programmes on workforces. A previous study found no connection between your engagement and how well you performed. It’s possible that companies are already so disconnected from their employees that making attempts to engage them can amount to little more than guesswork.

For employers to create programmes that truly increase employee engagement, they need to first determine what employees want.

Instead of forcing a new initiative on workers and expecting them to buy into it, employers should take steps to learn what employees are interested in, including any courses they’d like to take in order to help them reach their long-term career goals.

Training and development

When employers hear they need to invest in training their employees, they often start signing up their teams to random courses. They assume a leadership or teamwork course for the entire staff will suffice. By not taking the time to individualise the experience to each employee, the entire team may feel as though they’re being sent to yet another mandatory training class that wastes their time.

Related: 7 Character Traits That The Best Employees Share

The problem is, most employers feel that bringing in instructors to teach a class only one person can benefit from is a waste of money. Online training is an attractive option, with many sites offering a wide variety of courses that can appeal to various types of employees.

In addition, employers who want to bring specialised trainers in can group employees by the types of training most beneficial to them and conduct in-house training sessions with those groups.

What employees can do

employee-staff-training-advice

If you’ve been at the other end of these failed initiatives, it may seem as though there’s little you can do to change things. However, being fully engaged can help with your own career.

Employee engagement has been connected to business success. If you’re happier and more productive it’s generally going to boost the company’s bottom line. If you positively contribute to the business’s growth, you’re more likely to get promoted – or even earn a helpful reference.

Instead of waiting for your bosses to offer learning opportunities, you should seek out your own career development options. You should take the time to consider where you’d like to be in your career in five to 10 years and start building the resume that helps you achieve those goals.

Even if you see no advancement potential in your current company, you should consider how certifications and experience might look on a resume.

Related: Is Training In Your Company Worth The Effort?

Online courses to increase engagement

Both employers and employees can benefit from finding a resource that offers courses on a wide variety of career development and job-specific topics.

Sites like Lynda.com and Udemy give you plenty of choices, as well as personal development options. For employers, granting access to these platforms and letting employees choose classes on their own can be a strong motivator.

For employees, sometimes even a personal development course can break up the monotony of the workweek, helping increase productivity.

With the right approach, engagement programmes can boost your morale and productivity. Explore these options with your supervisor, because achieving personal and career goals will not only make you happier at your job, but it may make your boss satisfied too. A happier employee is more likely to get the job done and do it well.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

John Boitnott is a longtime digital media consultant and journalist living in San Francisco. He's written for Venturebeat, USA Today and FastCompany.

Increasing Productivity

The Surprising Ways Your Office Design Shows You Trust Your Employees

When team members feel trusted, they are more engaged in their work.

Marie Puybaraud

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Game rooms, contemplation suites and rooftop running tracks. These may sound like modern innovations – emblematic of the workplace of 2018 – but businesses have been experimenting with their workplaces for some time.

Take the U.S. Justice Department under Robert Kennedy as an example. A gym on the roof, picnic tables in the courtyard and the staff’s dogs in the office were all some of the measures that Kennedy implemented. What was the result? A huge boost in morale, according to his biographer, Larry Tye.

In fact, almost 50 years on, Tye reports that “nearly all of his surviving band of brothers say working for Bobby was the high point of their professional lives.” Kennedy not only boosted morale, but, crucially, he captured the trust and enthusiasm of his employees and was rewarded for it with their loyalty.

Here lies the crux of the matter: It is not only the employees who regularly don their running shoes that benefit from the running track. It is not just what the running track allows employees to do, but what it represents: a trust in staff that they will spend their time at work responsibly and that they are not chained to their desks.

Related: 4 Things Your Start-Up Needs When It Opens An Office

This really is crucial; building trust is the most effective way for employers to drive up engagement levels, according to our research, “Workplace – powered by Human Experience,” which is based on a survey over 7,300 employees across 12 countries shows. Boosting feelings of trust, according to nearly 40 percent of respondents, would have a very positive effect on their engagement level. Kindness by management (32 percent) and letting staff take initiatives without fear of being judged (31 percent) come next.

How does design demonstrate trust?

In all three areas, most employers have significant ground to be gained. So, what can they do to turn these abstract ideas into changes that are appreciated by staff? Trust comes in different ways – open-plan offices, for instance, in which all seniority levels mix together; community spaces (from attractive in-house cafés to lounges); and trusting staff enough to let them choose their working pattern, how to reconfigure their workspace and how to work flexibly.

It is no coincidence that our research also shows that while employees are ready to embrace change and contemplate an agile way of working, with 76 percent of workers globally ready for some type of change to their workplace, maintaining their personal comfort remains a priority.

Caring about the well-being of your employees is one way to demonstrate – using high-quality materials in desks, chairs and overall design, for instance; helping employees stay healthy with a nutrition plan through high-quality supplies for food in the canteen and providing access to anti-stress facilities such as quiet zones and meditation rooms. Having an effective support team on the ground, such as a facility manager, a concierge and floor ambassadors, could reinforce your execution plan.

But, it is also about fostering trust in employees to use their time effectively, providing a range of working locations and empowering people with greater flexibility over how, where and when they work.

But what can businesses actually do?

The transformational effect of trust building in the workplace does not require huge budgets. It requires human leadership teams who are ready to make employees’ working days better days to be an efficient and happy person at work.

For instance, smaller businesses could create major collaborative spaces or community spaces dedicated to team activities – music rooms, meditation spaces, scrum rooms and design thinking spaces where workers can go to brainstorm and share ideas during the working day or for longer periods of time. This not only cultivates creativity and helps employees to recharge their batteries, but also demonstrates that they are trusted to be away from their desks – ditching dated time keeping policies.

Research from the U.K. bank HSBC highlights that flexible and remote working is not only on the rise, but nine out of 10 employees claim that remote working is their No. 1 motivator to boost their productivity at work. Whether you identify a dedicated space – or simply clear corners of the office and add a sofa to provide more informal spaces – community or collaboration areas ensure that employees are able to step away from their desks to recharge and connect with their colleagues. Flexible spaces are stimulating, creative, inspirational and, perhaps most importantly, as the research demonstrates, capable of boosting productivity.

Related: Are You in the Right Office? Ask Yourself These 4 Key Questions

As for letting people use their initiative freely, encourage them to make suggestions (and also to make and learn from errors) on a wide range of issues, from improving productivity to new workplace systems to the design and layout of the premises. Including your staff in the process from the outset will also give them the confidence to suggest any changes to the workplace they feel the business needs. Not only does this encourage a sentiment of trust between employer and employee, but also means your people cultivate a strong sense of belonging toward their place of work. After all, more than a third of the 7,300 employees we surveyed believe that personalisation of the workplace is critical, and over 40 percent believe they would do their daily work better if they could work from different types of spaces that have been customised for a variety of needs.

If you manage to deliver on these three areas, our research suggests that you will see a rise in engagement. Staff will be keener to share their insights with others, to learn from colleagues, to grow within the company and to be as enthusiastic as if the organization belonged to them.

The message is clear: The first step is to trust in your staff and the transformation of your business is sure to follow.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Increasing Productivity

Entrepreneurs And A Politically Neutral Workplace – Finding The Perfect Balance

While employees have the right to freedom of association, that right is not absolute and may be limited, provided that there is a rational basis that underpins this.

Fiona Leppan

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Unless an entrepreneur has a vested interest in a specific political party, that entrepreneur, like any employer, has a duty to create and maintain a politically neutral work environment for all employees.

This does not mean that employees are prohibited from joining political parties or participating in political activities in their private time as this goes to the heart of freedom of association. While employees have the right to freedom of association, that right is not absolute and may be limited, provided that there is a rational basis that underpins this.

“Wearing political clothing does not only have the potential to cause tension in the workplace but can also impact cohesion and constructive interaction which should take place between employees amongst themselves and the employer. An employer is therefore well within its rights to take reasonable steps to mitigate this,” explains Fiona Leppan, a Director in Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr’s Employment practice.

It is therefore important that entrepreneurs and other employers introduce a rule against employees wearing political insignias in the workplace where this is justifiable, and apply that rule consistently through all levels of management.

“This would alleviate the argument that management supports a particular political party or organisation. It will also assist to discourage claims of unfair treatment against the employer in future,” she stresses.

Related: Gender Equality In The Workplace – SA Is Getting It Right

In a recent case (NUMSA obo Kwena Masha and PFG Building Glass), this matter came to the fore. In this case, an employee, who was also a shop steward, was disciplined and dismissed for taking a photograph at the workplace of him wearing a t-shirt of a certain political party, and thereafter posting that photograph on Facebook thereby associating the employer with his political aspirations. Upon his dismissal, the employee referred an unfair dismissal dispute to the National Bargaining Council for the Chemical Industry (NBCCI) and alleged, amongst other things, that the employer’s policy against wearing political insignia infringed his freedom of association.

“The employer argued that it had a rule against the wearing of political clothing in the workplace because it was not affiliated to any political party and did not want to create the impression that it was tolerant of any particular political party. It was common cause that the employee was aware of the policy against wearing political clothing in the workplace as this was communicated to him directly and was also placed on notice boards and was available on the employer’s intranet,” says Leppan.

In deciding whether the dismissal was substantively fair, the Commissioner found that the policy prohibiting the taking of photographs in the workplace was reasonable as it was intended to protect the employer’s trade secrets in the form of unique designs and equipment. The Commissioner found that at no time prior to being charged did the employee remove the contentious pictures on Facebook despite him being aware of the workplace rule. The photograph was in the public domain and accessible to the employer’s clients, which although indirectly, could have possible impact on the employer’s business in a form of decreased orders.

The Commissioner found that because the employee had also posted another picture on Facebook of him attending a political rally for the same political party and displaying a banner that the ruling party should fall, it was clear that this constituted participation in political activity. Such conduct could objectively have a negative impact on the employer’s reputation.

Related: Tips For Preventing Harassment In The Workplace

The Commissioner acknowledged that there is still a level of political intolerance in South Africa and stated that if such is not properly controlled in the workplace, it could lead to unnecessary tension. Further, the Commissioner found that given the position of influence the employee enjoyed as a shop steward, he should have known better and acted with caution. On this basis, the Commissioner found that the sanction of dismissal was appropriate also taking into account the seriousness of the misconduct.

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Increasing Productivity

5 Surprising Elements That Boost Your Productivity (One of Them Is Colour)

Even the most subtle things can make an impact.

Nina Zipkin

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The most important thing to remember about productivity, is that unless you are actively procrastinating, there is no way that you can actually do it wrong. Everyone has their own strategy for accomplishing their goals.

Ellevest founder Sallie Krawcheck swears by doing her work in the quiet of the 4:00 am hour. Lyft co-founder John Zimmer blocks out his time in three-hour uninterrupted chunks to power through his biggest deadlines.

But while you can plan as much as you like, there are actually some unexpected elements, in addition to elements like exercise and sleep, that can impact the efficacy of your work.

Multitasking

While it may seem like a straightforward way to get things done, it turns out that multitasking can actually make it tougher for you to be productive. Researchers from Stanford found that even if you’re highly skilled at doing many things at once, while you’re doing the process it actually makes you less adept at taking in and retaining new information and switching gears if need be.

Related: 14 Of The Best Morning Routine Hacks Proven To Boost Productivity

Humour

Cracking jokes with your colleagues isn’t just a fun way to pass the time and build rapport,  but according to a study from the University of Nebraska and Vrije University Amsterdam, it can actually make the group more likely to perform better as a team, leading to “positive socio-emotional communication, procedural structure, and new solutions.”

Temperature

thermostat-and-airconColder temperatures having a chilling effect on focus and productivity. A study from Cornell University found that as the temperature increased from 68 degrees to 77 degrees, employee typing errors decreased by 44 percent and their output increased by 150 percent. Not only that but it affects the bottom line. By making it warmer, the study found that employers save roughly $2 more an hour per employee.

Colours

If you have a say in what colours you paint the walls of your office, stay away from beige, grey and white. Though these hues might seem clean and simple, you could very well be contributing to your employees lack of productivity. A study from the University of Texas found that green and blue lend themselves to improved focus and yellow lends itself to innovation and creativity.

Related: Leadership – Lead Your Team To Dizzying Heights Of Productivity And Business Success

Cuteness

If you feel your concentration waning, and you suddenly have an impulse to go watch some cat videos, a study from Japan’s University of Hiroshima suggests you’d do well to embrace that instinct. Researchers found a link between improved performance and focus after the study participants looked at pictures of cute animals. So go ahead, go down that cuteness rabbit hole and watch that puppy’s Instagram story.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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