Skip to content

Human Middle Managers

office-620823_1920 Today’s guest post is courtesy of our board member, China Gorman. China is a consultant, speaker, writer, and former CEO of the Great Place to Work® Institute.

If you read any business publication – print or online – you’ll know that organization culture has become a critical advantage when competing for talent today. If the CEO and her C-suite commit to organizational values that promote the value of purpose, the building of trust, and the meaning of work, as well as the commitment to create real, personal relationships with colleagues – human-to-human rather than boss-to- subordinate – there is virtually no downside from an organizational performance perspective.

The tremendous productivity gains and culture-enhancing benefits promised by putting technology to use are huge. But using technology to create more human relationships and cultures at work is irony at its finest. Is there really an app for that?

Here’s where we need to focus: if we allow technology, Big Data, and predictive analytics to make it harder – rather than easier – for us to relate to each other on a more human level, we’ll have abdicated our responsibilities as leaders and missed an epic opportunity to improve our business outcomes.

If we miss this opportunity, it will most likely be because we neglected to set our first line supervisors and middle managers up for success. We’re notoriously ineffective at equipping these folks to be good relationship builders, behavioral leaders, and approachable partners with the human business of our businesses. We focus, instead on “hard” skills development, if we invest in their development at all.

As we maximize the benefits of technology, Big Data, and people analytics, we also need to invest in developmental opportunities for all of our managers – with a special emphasis on middle managers and first line supervisors. If these critical leaders aren’t focused on creating more personal relationships with their employees – including being equipped with skills, abilities, and attitudes to relate on a human level – if they aren’t approachable, if they aren’t trustworthy, if they aren’t human, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. My belief, though, is that what you’ve always gotten won’t be enough in 2017, 2018 or beyond. Bringing humanity into your culture through your first line supervisors and middle managers is a critical next step. But to do that will require focus and investment. Perhaps one of the most important investments in your 2017 plan.

What’s your organization doing to enable your first line supervisors and middle managers to become more effective leaders?  Are they able to coach and develop your employees?  Do they make the time to do so?

Share this:

Employee Burnout – Are You There Yet?

TWS35.600.burnoutWe write a lot here about employee engagement as a business issue.  In fact, we wrote a whole book about it, “It’s All About Bob/bie: Strategies for Winning With Your Employees“.  The data establishing the positive business impacts of an engaged workforce are well established.  Gallup data from 2016 indicates that organizations scoring in the top 25% for employee engagement outperform those in the bottom 25% by wide margins:

  • 10% in Customer Loyalty and Engagement
  • 21% in Profitability
  • 20% in Productivity

Lots of organizations measure employee satisfaction and other measures of engagement, but lots struggle with what to do to improve it.  One issue we’ve recently studied is the flip side of employee engagement; i.e. employee burnout.  In a joint study with Future Workplace, we found that 95 percent of human resource leaders say that employee burnout is sabotaging their workforce.  The study –  which included more than 600 Chief Human Resource Officers, VPs of HR, HR directors, and HR managers from organizations of all sizes – found that nearly half of HR leaders attribute up to half of their employee turnover to employee burnout.

Unfair compensation (41 percent), an unreasonable workload (32 percent) and too much overtime / after-hours work (32 percent) are the top three contributors to employee burnout, according to HR leaders in this study.  HR leaders said poor management (30 percent), employees seeing no clear connection between their role and corporate strategy (29 percent), and a negative workplace culture (26 percent) also fuel the problem.

“These secondary problems fall squarely into core HR competencies, like talent management, employee development, and leadership, and they’re the real problem,” according to Kevin Mulcahy, partner at Future Workplace, an HR executive networking and research firm which co-authored the study with Kronos. “Everyone wants to work less and get paid more, but having skilled managers and a rewarding culture that allows employees to see the importance of their contributions are the building blocks of an engaged workforce.”

Mulcahy, who recently published The Future Workplace Experience: 10 Rules for Mastering Disruption in Recruiting and Engaging Employees, says proactively tackling employee burnout will have a big impact on improving retention, and should be a top priority for organization’s in 2017.  Mulcahy went on to say that “As the economy continues to improve, the battle for talent will continue to heat up, requiring organizations to provide more compensation, expanded benefits, and a richer employee experience . Managers should pay close attention to make sure employees aren’t overworked while also promoting flexibility wherever possible.”

I agree with Kevin’s insights – and as a manager I know it can be difficult to balance the requirements of the job with each individuals need for rest and recovery.  I’d add to Kevin’s recommendations that managers need to check in frequently with employees to assess when the work life balance tilts too long in the work end of the scale.  Some industries, like healthcare and manufacturing, imposed fatigue rules on employee scheduling to help mitigate burnout.  Technology can help organizations avoid burning out their employees by paying close attention to time worked, patterns of absence, and other indicators of employee exhaustion.

What are you doing in your organization to recognize and avoid employee burnout?

Some of the content in this blog post was previously published on Forbes.com.

Share this:

Organizational Productivity: Staffing and Scheduling Must Work Together

McLendonToday’s guest post is courtesy of our board member, Sharlyn Lauby.  Sharlyn is author of the blog HR Bartender and president of ITM Group Inc.

We keep hearing about the challenges of finding qualified talent. According to a report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) titled “The New Talent Landscape: Recruiting Difficulty and Skills Shortages”, sixty-eight percent (68%) of human resources professionals report recruiting challenges in today’s talent market. This means that, once organizations find talent, they need to make sure they retain them. It’s estimated that the average cost per hire is $4,129 and the average time to fill an open position is 42 days. Companies spend too many resources to bring talent into the organization just to let their investment walk out the door.

As a result, organizations use a variety of strategies to retain employees, including unlimited vacation time, flexible scheduling and wellness programs to reduce burnout. But one area that might be overlooked is scheduling. Let me share a story to illustrate:

Years ago, I was brought in to an organization to evaluate their onboarding program. Their challenge was that customers were very unhappy with their service. The company was losing huge amounts of money in the form of customer refunds. Employees were frustrated. I understand that handling upset customers is part of our jobs but dealing with angry customers all the time is hard.

The company was convinced that the answer to their problems was to hire more people to keep up with customer demand. My assignment was to make sure new employees were onboarded effectively and efficiently. After spending a little time in their operation, I suggested to senior management that the company had plenty of people. And they had a good onboarding program. The problem? They weren’t scheduling people correctly.

Organizations must 1) hire the right people, 2) hire the right numbers of people, and 3) schedule people to be there at the right times. When these three pieces are working together, the work is distributed properly, employees feel engaged and not overwhelmed, customers are taken care of, and the business succeeds.

The good news is that organizations don’t need a tight rein over scheduling for it to be effective. Companies can give employees the ability to have a say into their work schedule. And it doing so, they’re not creating complete anarchy. Here’s how it works:

  • Employees can take their preferences and availabilities into consideration when they select their schedule. Scheduling is an emotional issue for employees. They want to know they can attend their kid’s school events, family gatherings, and even stay home to watch the Super Bowl. When employees are in control of their schedule, it can increase engagement, improve productivity, and reduce burnout.
  • Today’s technology allows employees to view their schedules in advance, sign up for extra shifts, and swap shifts using their smart devices. The technology has built-in intelligence that ensures employees who swap shifts have the right skills, certifications, qualifications, etc. Of course, this means that managers and employees need to provide relevant information about jobs such as skills and certification requirements so when swapping shifts, those important things are taken into consideration.
  • Finally, managers can stay informed of operational coverage by using their smart devices as well. This reduces the amount of scheduling administration being handled by management and allows them to focus on what’s really important – coaching and developing employees. A positive cycle is created with managers focused on employees and employees focused on customers.

If you’re looking for a real-life case study to illustrate, check out this article in STORES magazine featuring McLendon Hardware. Nathaniel Polky, director of information technology, shares their results. “Employees love seeing their schedules. It’s a small thing, but very important for them to know when and where they are working at any point in time. It gives them choice and flexibility, and it’s been very well received.

Staffing and scheduling are two different things. Many organizations have already aligned staffing with other human resources functions like compensation, benefits, training, etc. Scheduling shouldn’t be considered a stand-alone activity. It works very well with staffing and has a huge impact on the business. It’s time to align the staffing and scheduling functions for maximum productivity and employee engagement.

Share this: