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January 12, 2016

The Four Employee Engagement Languages

Filed under: Engagement,HRN News,Management Practices10:11 am


A popular relationship book first published 20 years ago is “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. In his book, Chapman describes five primary ways in which we each feel loved. Each of us feels loved and appreciated in different ways and the book tries to improve romantic relationships through learning your partner’s primary love language and demonstrating it regularly. The love languages are: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. To borrow from Chapman’s concept a bit, I’d like to introduce The Four Employee Engagement Languages.


As managers and colleagues, we know the importance of employee engagement and a primary way we can keep employees engaged is to ensure they feel valued as a member of our organization.


1) Words of Affirmation

You have probably noticed that many of your employees or coworkers often find encouragement through recognition. Whether it’s for taking on an extra project or going above and beyond for a customer, simple recognition of that effort can speak volumes to an employee who appreciates words of affirmation. As a manager, find out which of your employees or colleagues appreciates encouraging words and affirm them regularly. Be sure to find out whether that employee prefers this recognition publicly or privately as it can be damaging to provide public recognition to an employee who doesn’t like lots of attention drawn to him or her.


2) Acts of Service

Some employees feel appreciated when a coworker or manager steps in to assist with a project or takes care of a problem without being asked. When someone jumps in to help relieve your workload or volunteers to take care of an unwanted project, you’re likely to feel a sense of unity within your team. Consider which employees might most appreciate someone stepping in and sharing the load and seek to meet that need when possible.


3) Receiving Gifts

Similar to words of affirmation, some employees enjoy receiving those small notes of encouragement or a box of chocolates to show appreciation. There are many organizations and catalogs at HR’s disposal to find creative ideas for employee recognition through small gifts. Be sure to recognize small achievements as well as the big ones. Don’t just wait for an employee to earn a certification to be given an award, find ways to award employees for the small things, too. And, it’s not always a specific achievement, but sometimes just a simple reminder of how much the organization values that employee.


4) Quality Time

You might recognize the employees who need quality time as the ones who often stop to talk with their coworkers or are quick to offer to have a meeting instead of an email or phone call. Employees who most appreciate quality time enjoy the interaction with their manager or colleagues and thrive on the ability to spend time with people, even if it’s just for work. While it can sometimes be viewed as a time-waster, consider employees who seem to enjoy or find a need for that extra meeting and try to meet one-on-one with them when warranted.


Getting to know your employees and coworkers at a deeper level and finding out what makes them tick will benefit both you and employees. Find the ways they feel most appreciated and seek to ensure they feel valued and remain engaged team members.


April 27, 2015

Managing Goals through Change

Filed under: Communication,Engagement11:02 am


by Nancy Norman, HR Product Manager

Even with the most careful and brilliant planning, change is inevitable.  Imagine if a sailor navigating the seas was so set on his selected course that he failed to adjust to the change in the winds or weather.  He may never reach his intended port and may find himself in great peril.  The saying goes, “The only certainties in life are death and taxes,” which means that even the most carefully crafted goals should be subject to change.  While many of us feel that change is for the Byrds, “to everything… there is a season… and a time for every purpose.” It is each manager’s responsibility to be alert to the coming changes in the “seasons” that will impact his/her functional areas and appropriately adjust his/her course based on the company’s strategic plan and organizational goals.  If that’s the case, what can be done to encourage the creation of goals that are effective and properly nimble to ensure success?

Know and Understand the Strategic Plan:
In order to set goals that align with organizational strategy, managers have to first know what that strategy is and have a thorough understanding of how it applies to their departments and individual roles. Managers should be able to effectively communicate this to their employees.  Human Resources should be instrumental in making this information available in a timely fashion and helping management know what to do with when strategy changes direction?

Review the Strategic Plan and Goals Regularly:
When direction changes, it is important they take the time to re-assess the focus and direction of the goals that have been set and make the needed adjustments to stay on target.  We will not know of important changes if we are not keeping in touch with our organizations strategy.  Annual goals should be reviewed at least quarterly to ensure they are still accomplishing an outcome that will be meaningful.

Set Expectations:
Communicate to employees that their goals are significant and an important part of your overall success.  As goals are set with employees, be sure to set the expectation that they will be reviewed often and adjustments will be made if business needs shift.  The knowledge that their goals are a component of a greater purpose should provide the motivation and understanding necessary to weather changes with the proper attitude.

Don’t Confuse Flexible with Non-Specific:
While you want goals to be flexible, this does not mean that they are not defined.  You should not forget the rules of effective goal setting.  Goals need to continue to be SMART, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.  Specific details set clear expectations and help the employee understand what it is they are trying to accomplish. They must be easily measured and feasible both in the employees ability to achieve the goal and its relevancy to their current role.  Timelines and due dates are also critical for success.

Human Resources is an important link between key company stake holders and the people on the ground getting things done.  HR can be instrumental in providing the necessary information and training for managers to be successful in setting goals and managing them throughout the year.  Create a culture where each employee thinks strategically and looks for and anticipates change.  It’s inevitable; it may as well be embraced.



March 30, 2015

Measuring the Effect of Training

staff training


How effective are your training programs? Do they result in greater productivity, fewer accidents, less expense, lower turnover, increased employee satisfaction or greater customer retention? Do they change people’s attitudes? Do they lower your risk of lawsuits? Answers to questions like these are necessary to determine if your training efforts are producing results … results that can affect your bottom line.

Conducting an ongoing evaluation of your training programs is absolutely necessary. It can help you keep your training programs cost-effective and relevant by revealing when programs should be revised or replaced. You must analyze your training results in several different areas, such as:

  • Training Participant Evaluation
    Getting participant feedback is a vital part of training evaluation. You can do this through surveys, either via paper or computer. Areas to evaluate could include: content, delivery and logistics. Keep in mind that surveys are subjective, but they should help you get an overall feel for how the training is received.
  • Skills/Principles Learned
    Actual learning as a result of training is another important area to measure. If the training teaches certain skills, participants should be tested prior to and after the training so you can see what skills they gained. If the training covers knowledge and theory, testing participants at the end is a simple way to measure learning results.
  • Identify Results
    It’s important to be able to assess how the training impacts the bottom line. Identify specific results that are desired from the training and follow up to see if they occur. It’s also important to assess the behavior of training participants once they return to the job. Did the training impact their behavior?
  • Calculate ROI
    The final step is to calculate the return on investment (ROI) as it relates to the training. Once you identify the results and calculate the costs of the training, decide if the return is worth it. Be sure to factor in ALL costs related to the training: wages of developers and presenters, outside trainer fees, material costs such as paper and pens, downtime during training, facility and equipment charges, administrative costs, travel costs, etc.) The list can be extensive, but needs to be complete for the results to be useful.

Calculating the benefits of your training programs can be a bit time-consuming, but it’s essential if you want to know whether your training efforts are helping you meet your goals.

If your organization needs a hand developing, measuring or improving its training, HR Performance Solutions’ HR consultants can help.


October 23, 2014

Employee Handbook – A Tool You Shouldn’t Be Without

Employee handbooks serve many purposes in an organization.  They can be considered tools for risk management, communication of expectations, and a guidebook of general rules for the workplace.  Employees are not the only ones to benefit from handbooks, but managers and employers also gain an advantage from a well-written and professional-looking handbook.  Here is how:

  • Employees – The handbook should outline how employees are to behave and what the consequences are if they don’t.  It will teach them what needs to be done in their job to be successful in the company.  The handbook should serve as a protection to employees by outlining a process for complaining about possible harassment, reporting an on-the-job injury, and promoting awareness of workplace violence.  Other areas that should be covered are the absence reporting process, how to request time off from work, what dress is appropriate, and how the company feels about complying with all employment laws.
  • Managers – Consistency is key for managers.  They must have a set of standards for how to handle organizational issues.  This should not be step-by-step instructions they must follow, but should consist of principles they can apply consistently in employee relations, performance management, and other areas within their scope of responsibility.
  • Employers – The handbook is a mouthpiece for employers to openly communicate their behavioral expectations for employees and managers alike.  It gives clearly defined parameters for personal conduct, acceptable behaviors, and company expectations.  It is also an effective tool for communicating a summary of the benefits of employment with their organization, (e.g. paid time off, medical and other insurance coverages offered, tuition reimbursement, retirement planning, etc.).  

Ensuring employees have easy access to the employee handbook and have acknowledged its receipt can go a long way to protect an employer in a lawsuit.  Sometimes copies of the policy violated and the acknowledgement of the handbook receipt are all that is needed to dispute an unemployment claim.  Now is the time to minimize your risk by having an up-to-date, legally compliant, and tailored to your company handbook.  It conveys to your employees you care about them and their success!


Source:  Brannen, D. Albert.  “Why Your Company Needs a Handbook.” Fisher & Phillips Attorneys at Law.  Available here.


October 1, 2014

Unlimited Vacation – Is it Really that Easy?

Filed under: Engagement,General HR Buzz,Work/Life Balance6:54 am

In the last decade traditional leave programs have been replaced with Paid Time Off (PTO) programs.  PTO is believed to reduce unexcused absences, since employees may use their time off for vacation, sick, or personal reasons.  Employees have welcomed the added flexibility of using PTO as they want to or need to in their quest for work-life balance.

A new trend, though, is taking hold for a few companies.  Some may explain it as an experimental leave program that employees would take advantage of, but those who have adopted it report increased productivity.  It is called Unlimited Vacation time.  Most recent to join the ranks of those not tracking vacation and time off is Virgin.  Founder, Richard Branson, announced that his company would be offering unlimited vacation following suit with Netflix and a handful of others.

An unlimited vacation program is designed to give employees the ability to decide when they will be gone as they need to recharge and avoid burnout.  However, they are held accountable for completing their work, meeting deadlines, not leaving their team in a bind, and coordinating with other employees to cover for them.  The program encourages autonomy, which boosts morale and creativity, fostering satisfied employees.  And, we all know that happy employees are productive employees!

Is unlimited vacation time for your company?  We’d like to hear your comments.

Read more about this unique time off initiative here.


February 27, 2014

Are You Ready for a Vacation?

I remember as a child returning to school after summer break.  It was so exciting because on the first day of school, as a method for young students to get to know each other, the teacher would ask what we did on our summer vacation.  We would then share our stories with all the other students of our visits to Grandma’s house, our trip to Mexico, playing outside in the hot summer sun, and swimming every day possible.  Summer vacations as a child were really a lot of fun!

This made me wonder why so many employees find it hard to take time off from work for vacation.  It could be a number of reasons.  Heavy workloads may place added pressure on an employee, the boss’s negative attitude toward those employees using their earned benefit, and the squeeze of the economy could all add to an employee’s hesitance to take their time off.

According to a survey by U.S. Travel Association, “Americans left an average of 3.2 PTO days on the table in 2013, totaling 429 million unused days among U.S. workers.”  The survey went on to say that “nearly 34 percent of employees indicated that their employer neither encourages nor discourages leave, and 17 percent of managers consider employees who take all of their leave to be less dedicated.”  (Fortunately, that leaves 83 percent of managers who do not feel that way!)

In fact, most employers recognize the importance of providing time off for employees to relax, refresh, and rejuvenate.  Employees personally and physically benefit by disconnecting for a short time and companies enjoy happy, more engaged workers and increased productivity.  When vacation time is encouraged by management, it works as an excellent retention tool as well.  So, what are your vacation plans?


Source:  U.S. Travel Association.


February 26, 2014

Reduce the Cost of Turnover with Effective Performance Appraisals

The cost of turnover can be crippling for most organizations.  In a study by Center for American Progress (CAP), it was found that when replacing a mid-level employee it costs about 20% of their salary.  With the cost of replacing employees being so high it behooves management to take actions to reduce turnover.  One of those ways is to have an effective performance appraisal.

Employees often fear their annual appraisal.  Why is that?  More frequently than not, an employee will only receive feedback during their annual appraisal.  This lack of communication can cause a breakdown between a manager and their employee.  It is important to provide feedback to employees throughout the year.  Maynard Webb, author of Rebooting Work: Transform How You Work in the Age of Entrepreneurship says, “When it comes to retaining talent, one tactic I’ve often found crucial is implementing informal weekly and formal quarterly check-ins.”  He explains that by doing this you are able to avoid disconnects within an organization and between managers and employees. Feedback is critical when attempting to get employees to buy into an organization’s culture.

Performance appraisals can be used as the perfect conduit to facilitate ongoing feedback between a manager and an employee.  When managers continually check-in with employees they will have the opportunity to provide and ask for feedback.  Increased feedback will lead to increased employee “buy in” which leads to increased employee satisfaction and reduced turnover.


May 15, 2013

How Important is Employee Engagement?

Filed under: Engagement10:59 am

Employee engagement is closely linked to employee motivation.  Employees who are motivated are more likely to consistently perform their best work.  They become positive assets for their company by daily demonstrating their satisfaction and engagement with their work.  Gallup recently researched employee engagement.  They defined “Engaged” employees as those that “are deeply involved in and enthusiastic about their work and actively contributing to their organization.”  Conversely, employees who “are ‘not engaged’ may be satisfied but are not emotionally connected to their workplaces and are less likely to put in discretionary effort.  ‘Actively Disengaged’ [employees] are emotionally disconnected from their work and workplace and jeopardize their teams’ performance.”  Think about those definitions for just a minute.  Do you have employees that are not engaged that could be?  Do you have actively disengaged employees that may need to be off-boarded?

The poll showed that 36% of managers and executives were “Engaged” in their jobs, which was a 10% increase compared with their results in 2009.  The least engaged were in the manufacturing and transportation industries.  The statistics nationwide indicated that overall 30% of employees are “Engaged,” 18% are “Actively Disengaged,” and the remainder, representing the majority, are “Not Engaged.”

These statistics can be alarming to employers who are coasting along thinking all their employees are happy and satisfied.  What can be done to motivate and achieve engagement in employees?  While many organizations try to “buy” their employees through increased wages and benefits packages, such are short-lived.  Salary and benefits are tangible and important to employees, but work best to attract and retain the top talent.  True motivation and engagement tools come through intangible efforts, such as praise and recognition, challenging work over which they have control, respect, and growth opportunities.  When employees see these regularly practiced in the workplace, they are much more likely to be engaged and compatible with the organization, helping to reap big dividends!



April 10, 2013

How to Show You Value Your Aging Workforce

Filed under: Engagement6:00 am

Mature.  Seasoned.  Experienced.  Well-established.  Old school.  Overqualified.  All are words some persons attribute to the aged workforce.   Decades of experience and valuable knowledge of business processes contribute to the fact that many older workers are more highly compensated than someone newer to the workforce and more than likely, younger.  Regardless of their skills and talent, the older worker at times is replaced for younger competition eager for the opportunity to prove themselves in a position of responsibility, whether they have been primed for it or not.  Such business decisions can result in lawsuits alleging age discrimination.

One such case was heard in an Ohio court.  Richard Warden, a retired engineer, was hired by the state on a contract basis.  Prior to this he had worked for the state for nearly 30 years.  When he applied for a full-time job with them, he scored higher than any other applicant.  So did he get the job?  No, he was rejected when the state made the contract job a full-time position and gave it to someone 15 years his junior!  Warden was awarded more than $500,000 to settle his claim of age discrimination.

This example illustrates that age discrimination does happen and with a high cost!  The Department of Labor reports that workers over age 55 spend more time unemployed than their younger counterparts.  Besides their higher earnings, it is perceived that it costs more to employ an older worker and that they won’t be able to fully perform the job duties.

What can be done to change that perception?  The truth is that perceptions are not always an accurate picture of reality.  An older worker possesses a wealth of knowledge that comes from years of experience.  Many have mastered the art of collaboration and the wisdom of listening.  An older worker makes a great mentor for the younger generations, helping them better understand the unique dynamics of the workplace in a positive and productive manner.  They can teach valuable communication skills having built their own professional network and boasting longevity in their careers.  An employer will find themselves well ahead of the game if they utilize these many hidden talents of their loyal workforce and foster it by offering training to keep their workers’ knowledge current and at times, flexible work schedules or part-time employment.   They’ll find that those hidden talents weren’t really hidden, but were there all along!


January 30, 2013

Outsourcing – Really Can Make Your Job Easier!

Filed under: Engagement9:00 am

Recently a news article caught my attention that really gave a new spin on the thought of outsourcing jobs.  An employee of a U.S. software developer, whom they referred to as “Bob,” independently outsourced his own job to a software developer in China for $50,000/year.  Bob was described as a “model employee” who “never missed deadlines,” according to  Instead of doing his own job, Bob reportedly spent his days at work (using the term loosely) on eBay, social media sites, and watching cat videos, while collecting his six-figure salary.  He would report his progress to management by email each day, and then go home.  Unbelievable!

While some people are skeptical that this could or did happen, what’s an employer to do?  How do you know your employees are really working?  Apparently, Bob’s job didn’t require customer contact, but it sounds as though he may not have had much contact with his manager, either!  Regular and meaningful conversation with Bob may have made a difference.  Asking Bob about progress on his projects, if he had any pain points, or even what his logic was behind certain aspects of his work would surely have helped keep Bob engaged.  Perhaps his references weren’t checked before he was hired, or they were poor references.  Since there is no test for lazy, (cat videos, really?) checking reliable references and background information are essential to finding a good hire.  One could also assume that Bob lacked loyalty to his company.  If he was a high performer, shouldn’t he have been getting more of management’s attention to foster growth and commitment?  Lastly, monitor your computer systems regularly and often.  You, too, could have an employee in China!

Click here to read Bob’s story.

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