Merge's Blog

Yet another sure-fire way to create disengaged employees

disengaged employeesLast month, I blogged about two different scenarios demonstrating how otherwise-reasonable managers do stupid things that lead to demotivated and disengaged employees.  Specifically, I wrote about managers who short-sightedly block their employees’ internal transfers and promotions, and those who erroneously mistake attendance for productivity.  Both those posts generated several emails (and even a phone call), all from readers who agreed completely with the points I was making.  A couple of weeks later, I received another email from a reader, outlining yet another situation that occurs repeatedly, almost always resulting in disengaged employees.  This event – when managers watch the clock to see what time employees arrive and leave, but then don’t give them credit for the work they do on their own time – is a huge demotivator.

Work isn’t just done from the office any more!

I couldn’t agree more!  In today’s world of advanced technology, work isn’t just conducted in the office anymore.  Continue reading

More workplace motivators that work – allow personalization of workspaces

It’s been almost three weeks since I last did an instalment (Strategy #23: volunteer together) in our video series about specific ideas on workplace motivators to build morale and employee engagement.  So I figured it was time for another one!  Today’s idea is to allow for creativity and fun in decorating and personalizing individual workspaces.

Allow creativity and fun in personalizing individual workspaces

When you think about how much time you spend at work, it may give you cause to pause.  Roughly one-third of your life is spent in the pursuit of an income, and for those of you who know yourself to be workaholics, that fraction is even higher.  So it makes a lot of sense to make your workspace fun, welcoming and appealing.  With that in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that allowing employees to decorate their workspace can be a great morale booster.  Let your people personalize their immediate work environment, whether it’s a cubicle or an office, with bright colours, family and pet photos, toys, individualized mugs, fresh flowers, cards, and just about anything else.  As long as it is tasteful and doesn’t create a tripping or safety hazard, let your staff be creative.

So let me tell you what NOT to do.  Continue reading

Strengthen social bonds at work by using music

Strengthen social bondsBack in July, music therapist and my professional colleague Jennifer Buchanan guested on the blog with a post on boosting productivity at the office by using music.  Because this is an area that not many people are knowledgeable about, I was delighted to give our readers an opportunity to learn more about how music therapists use music to curb stress, boost morale, and restore health, and what leaders could learn that would benefit their workplaces.  Her post was so well-received that I was thrilled that she agreed to contribute a second post to the blog.  Her contribution today is about music can be used to strengthen social bonds at work.  And as leaders, we know how important it is to nurture and strengthen social bonds between employees – it leads to increased morale, higher productivity and less turnover.

Music: the culture connection that can strengthen social bonds

There is no doubt that music plays a role in our wellbeing. But researchers now suggest that music also plays a significant role in strengthening social bonds. In a 2013 review of the research on music, music psychologist Stefan Koelsch described several ways music impacts our ability to connect with one another—by affecting systems involved in empathy, trust, and cooperation. Here are some ways music can strengthen social bonds at work and hopefully get us back on track: Continue reading

Dealing with adversity – wisdom from mom!

Dealing with adversity is a subject that I often address in my blog posts.  Two that come to mind right away are A mental approach to coping with irritants and An ageless folktale about dealing with adversity.  Here is yet another thought on this subject.

Face your adversity head-on

personfacingsun

When you turn and face the sun, your shadow will always be behind you …

Said my mom to me on numerous occasions during both my childhood and adulthood.  Her point was that the best way to deal with a problem was to address it directly.  The unfortunate reality is that as long as I tried to keep evading the issue at hand, either by skirting around it or by avoiding it completely, the shadows would also linger, and eventually the outcome would be sub-optimal.  As usual, my mom was right.  And it turns out that my mom’s counsel is not bad advice for leaders either.

The leadership journey is fraught with minefields – unexpected setbacks, difficult clients and co-workers, or just simply situations where the best-laid plans go awry.  When things go wrong, it can be tempting to retreat, to search out cover, and get out of the line of fire.  At first glance, this may not be a bad idea, since withdrawal allows you to re-evaluate and reassess the state of affairs.  But while pausing to reflect may be appropriate for the short-term, it is definitely not a long-term solution.  Continue reading

Radio interview – preventing the boomer brain drain

boomer brain drainBracing for the boomer brain drain was the title of my regular column for The Globe and Mail that published on August 6.  In it, I outlined five strategies to retain crucial institutional knowledge (and prevent corporate amnesia).

It got a fair amount of interest and positive feedback, including a call from the folks at the More than Money radio show on 770 Newstalk CHQR.  Dave Popowich and Faisal Karmali host this weekly radio program that focuses on planning for retirement, lifestyle and everything in between.  They were interested in advice I could offer on how people contemplating retirement could pass on their knowledge before departing their organizations.

Transferring knowledge wealth at retirement

Here is the link to my segment in the podcast of their show on August 18; the entire segment lasts about 10 minutes.

https://omny.fm/shows/more-than-money/mtm-aug-17-seg-4

What advice do you have to offer to add to what I shared on the show?  Are you contemplating retirement and find yourself in a similar situation?  Or have you experienced a situation where this “ boomer brain drain” was not recognized, and key people left the organization with critical information about processes and relationships?  Please share your perspectives by adding a comment below.

Five reasons Generation Z employees are not Millennials

On January 1 this year, my regular column in The Globe and Mail outlined my assessment of the five employee-related trends that were going to gain the greatest momentum in 2018.  Number three was the influx of Generation Z into the workplace.  As I predicted, this topic continues to be of huge interest to leaders everywhere, so my latest column for The Globe addresses this very subject.

How Gen Zers will distinguish themselves from millennials in the workplace

Generation Z

Generation Z are not just millennials magnified!

Generation Z started turning 23 this year, which means that increasing numbers of them are working in more than just fast food and retail. Just as millennials changed the face of work, so will these young entrants to the workforce. Despite there being similarities between Gen Zers and millennials, there are more differences than not. Don’t make assumptions about who they are, what motivates them, and how they operate to get things done. Above all, don’t presume that they are just millennials magnified.

Note: if you are a subscriber to The Globe and Mail, you can also read the column directly at their website at this link: https://tgam.ca/2Px2a8w

So I’d love to hear about your experiences with Generation Z, either because you’re working with them, or because you are one!  Are the five differences that I have outlined what you know and see to be true as well?  Please comment below.

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

Continue reading