Merge's Blog

Monthly Archives: August 2018

Latest in our series on effective workplace motivators – volunteer together

Last week, in our ongoing video series on workplace motivators, I gave you Strategy #22 which was very fundamental – to give your employees a safe and comfortable working environment.  Today’s strategy for engaging and motivating employees: volunteer together.

Volunteer together

True story.  It’s a weekday morning, and six members of the sales team have arrived at the home of an elderly citizen. Recently out of hospital, advanced osteoporosis means that she must now use a walker or a wheelchair, and the front-door steps that she has climbed for over 20 years are now an insurmountable challenge. She may have to leave her home.  Until the sales team comes to the rescue!  Within a matter of hours, they have a secure solid ramp built from the sidewalk to her front door. By noon, the gang is done and gathered in a restaurant just a few kilometres away, enjoying lunch, comparing injuries, and laughing about the inevitable mishaps from earlier in the day.

Another true story.  In another part of the city, all eight accounts payable team members spend their afternoon in the local food bank, sorting through huge hampers of canned and packaged goods that arrived at the warehouse after last week’s annual pre-Christmas push. It takes them almost five hours to finish their assigned section, and soon after, they make their way to the local pub for libations and snacks, where they swap stories and reminisce about the afternoon’s adventures. Continue reading

Foolish short-sighted management practices … the chronicles continue!

Last week I blogged about managers who short-sightedly block their employees’ internal transfers and promotions.  Well it must have struck a nerve for many, because I received several emails and even a couple of phone calls on the subject (all of whom echoed my sentiments, by the way).  It was during one of these phone conversations that another example of foolish short-sighted management practices came up.  This one: managers who turn absence issues into performance issues.

Attendance does not equal productivity

Now once again, let me clarify.  I’m not talking about the poorly-performing employee who, amongst other failings, is consistently absent without good reason.  Yes, in that situation, it IS a performance issue.  But what I am talking about are the short-sighted managers who equate attendance with productivity.  The reality of life is that employees – good employees – get injured, have children who get sick, face vehicle breakdowns, and experience plumbing emergencies.  And when that happens, what they really value is understanding and flexibility from their boss.  Understanding that they didn’t choose to have this adversity befall them, and the flexibility to find alternate solutions that will allow them to deal with the problem at hand AND meet their responsibilities at work.  If you are the manager who doesn’t get this, then you do so at your own peril! Continue reading

Workplace motivators fundamental: provide a safe and comfortable working environment

Today’s video blog continues with our ongoing series this year on effective workplace motivators.  In our last two instalments, I talked about giving employees performance feedback that was both timely and constructive.  Today’s tip, while quite different, is just as fundamental: provide your employees with a safe comfortable working environment.

Give your employees a safe and comfortable working environment

This is pretty basic – when you provide a safe and comfortable working environment, you are creating a positive working space that improves staff performance and job satisfaction.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re managing teams on a factory floor or a tower-full of office workers, when you offer comfortable and inspiring surroundings, you are tapping into important workplace motivators.

Your employees need to be safe, all day, every day. Check that your facilities are adhering to building codes and fire regulations, make sure all smoke detectors and alarms are working properly.  Equip your workspaces with fire extinguishers and first aid kits.   Once you’ve covered the safety basics, work on comfort.  Are restrooms, lounge areas, and workstations clean?  Is there sufficient ventilation?  Does the heating and air conditioning work?  Is there access to a kitchen area?  These may seem like trivial matters, but don’t underestimate how important they can be.  Can you imagine working without them? Continue reading

Yet another example of foolish short-sighted company policies!

Over the years, I have often blogged about foolish short-sighted company policies and management practices – forced ranking, archaic performance reviews, the requirement that employees substantiate bereavement leave, assuming that attendance equals productivity – to name just a few.  Well, what is really mind-boggling to me is that the list continues to grow.

Today’s example of foolish short-sighted company policies and/or management practices that is irking me: that a manager can unilaterally deny an employee’s application for an internal transfer or promotion.

Unilaterally denying internal transfers or promotions is just wrong!

Now before you start on me, I am well aware of the reasons that managers might want this discretion.  I fully understand that constant turnover in a department is disruptive and difficult.  Sure, you want employees to be in positions long enough so that they are not just making their way up the learning curve, but also around for a reasonable period to master responsibilities and make positive improvements in their roles.  I get that!

But far too often, I come across managers who hold employees back for no other reason than they want to eliminate (or reduce) interruption and instability in their own departments.  For purely selfish reasons, they block their (good) people from moving on to other favourable opportunities.  And because they have been given the unilateral discretion to deny their employees these possibilities, they do exactly that.  Ironically though, these actions don’t usually benefit either the manager (or the organization) in the long-term.  Good employees who are obstructed from achieving their own aspirations get demoralized and demotivated, and eventually just leave the organization and walk …. usually right over to the competitors.

There is a reasonable alternative

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Top employee motivators #21: performance feedback that is constructive

In our last video tip in our continuing series on persuasive and effective employee motivators, I talked about how offering timely performance feedback is a compelling and powerful leadership tool.  But there is one additional aspect of performance feedback, positive or negative, that can make it even more successful.  And that is: ensure that your performance feedback is constructive.

Ensure that your performance feedback is constructive

So what exactly does constructive mean?  It means that you need to be specific enough so that it is clear to your employee what actions or behaviours need to be changed.  It is critical that you focus on giving your employee information so that he or she understands what needs to be changed in order to fix the problem.  An easy way to do this is to focus on facts rather than opinions.  Let me explain.

Example #1

“I want you to be more positive in our team meetings” is a statement that is based on opinion.  While getting your employee to be more positive may be the outcome you want, the statement itself gives no information about what actions or behavior you want changed in order to fix the problem.  Consider this statement instead: “When other team members offer suggestions, I’d like you to hold back on expressing your reservations about their ideas until others have had a chance to contribute and discuss further.”  This statement is based on fact.  And it gives your employee specific and clear information on what you’d like changed in order to create a more positive environment in your team meetings.  See the difference?

Example #2

Okay, let’s try another one.  “You need to be more organized” is a statement based on an opinion, and it doesn’t offer any useful information to your employee about what you’d like done differently.  But “I’d like you to keep an updated real-time log of outstanding system issues that I can access whenever I need it” is based on fact, most likely that you have faced instances in the past when you have been unable to do so.  Now your employee has information that is specific enough so that he or she know what needs to be done to improve the current situation.  I think you get the idea.

When you offer constructive performance feedback, you are providing information that is specific enough for the employee to be clear on what needs to be changed in order to correct the present state of affairs.  Many people question how giving negative feedback can be motivating.  In fact, it’s this “constructive” aspect of performance feedback that puts it into the category of powerful employee motivators.

Well?  As always, I am interested to hear your perspectives.  Are most managers good at offering feedback that is constructive?  What do they do well?  And what don’t they?  Please share.

Periods of vulnerability can present both threats and opportunities

vulnerabilityRecently I had a conversation with a scientist friend who told me how biologists use information about animal life cycles to accomplish diametrically opposite objectives – in some cases to purge populations, and in others to conserve them.  The secret: determining in which stage of its life cycle is the animal most vulnerable.  And it’s at these points of vulnerability that either the worst or the best is the easiest to accomplish.  It is when the animals are at greatest risk that it takes the least effort to destroy them, or conversely, to protect them.  He gave me two examples to illustrate his point.

The Bertha armyworm

The Bertha armyworm is a significant insect pest of canola in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the interior of British Columbia.  Like many insects, it goes through a four stage life cycle – egg, larva, pupa and finally, the adult moth stage.  However, their vulnerability is greatest at the larval stage.  As eggs, they are not susceptible to pesticides; as pupae, they are buried in the ground and therefore well protected; as adults, they are widely dispersed and therefore difficult to control.  Because scientists know that the insect’s defences are the weakest when at the larval stage, substantial and successful control efforts are targeted at this point in the life cycle.  Continue reading

Employee motivators that really work – timely performance feedback

Last week, in our video series on employee motivators that really work, I gave you strategy #19 – delegate effectively.  Today’s tip: offer timely performance feedback, both positive and negative.  Give your employees feedback about their performance that they can use to become better at what they do, and do so on a timely basis.  But what does timely mean?

Offer timely performance feedback

Timely means within 48 hours of you being made aware of the event.  This is important, in order for performance feedback to be effective, it must be delivered within 48 hours of the event that it relates to, or within 48 hours of you finding out about it.  So what happens if you are not going to have an opportunity to see your employee for another week?  Should you wait to deliver it face-to-face, in person?  Well ideally, in person is the best option, but if the feedback is positive, time is more important than face-to-face.  In order for positive feedback to be effective, it’s more important to deliver it on a timely basis, rather than in person.  So if you know you’re not going to get that face-to-face meeting, leave a voicemail or send a short e-mail acknowledging and thanking the person for their good work.

What if the feedback is negative?

Continue reading

Bracing for the boomer brain drain

As the last of the Boomers move through their 50’s and beyond, those who elect to take early retirement often take decades of tacit knowledge with them.  This boomer brain drain – the loss of undocumented, intuitive experiential information about people, business processes and informal procedures can leave huge gaps in an organization’s cumulative intelligence.

The boomer brain drain can cripple your company

This corporate amnesia can cripple a company, so if you’re a leader, it’s up to you to actively identify and work to mitigate this possibility.  And the time to do it is now, well in advance, and not just in the months and weeks before a key employee is due to leave.  In my latest column for The Globe and Mail, I offer five strategies to brace for the boomer brain drain, and retain crucial institutional knowledge.

Bracing for the boomer brain drain

Bracing for the boomer brain drain

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Reverse mentoring: working one-on-one with a younger colleague can help you stay relevant

reverse mentoringI often discuss the value of one-on-one mentoring relationships with my clients as well as here on the blog (in fact, one-on-one mentoring makes up a significant portion of my professional practice).  The assumption with mentoring is often that it is a one-way effort – veteran staff mentoring younger employees.  However, there is just as much value in reverse mentoring – where senior employees benefit from a one-on-one learning relationship with someone who is much younger.  The value can come in many aspects, but the most beneficial is likely in the area of technology.

When it comes to technology, there are many tools and resources out there that you may have never heard about.  So if you are over 35 years old, it’s worth considering a reverse mentoring relationship with a younger work colleague.  Ask your younger mentor what trends they are observing and what new technologies they are trying out.  Ask them to show you how these tools work.  Tell them about the work-related challenges you are facing and see if they have solutions to offer that you may not have considered, or for that matter, even know about. Continue reading