“A recent global study of engagement from the ADP Research Institute found that if employees consider themselves part of a team (or even better, part of more than one team), they are twice as likely to feel engaged in their work.”
To get your culture right, you need to understand your people as best you can and the most effective way to understand your team is through regular staff engagement. There are plenty of ways to engage with your staff, but one of the most effective in terms of resources and outcome, is staff engagement surveys. They’re cost effective, provide staff with a platform to have their say, and provide leaders with real insights that can support better decision making.
These 6 steps will help you conduct staff engagement surveys that facilitate constructive dialogue and improve company culture and productivity.
1. Focus on teams
One-size-fits-all, whole-of-organisation surveys have their place, but they’re also clunky and can fail to give a true indication of the state of your staff’s engagement with their job and your organisation.
Evidence suggests that a staff member’s immediate team and line-manager have a big impact on how they feel about their job. So, tailoring surveys to suit the needs of individual teams gives leaders more honest insights into the workings of their team, and focus their energy on what really matters.
2. Be consultative
Involve staff in the design of your survey to generate buy-in and higher participation rates. When you ask staff to be part of the survey’s creation, you also gain insights into what your staff want to tell you their team, their job and their manager.
3. Make them regular
Once a year surveys just don’t cut it anymore. Conduct your staff engagement surveys no less than twice per year. In my opinion, conducting a staff engagement survey once every quarter is best-practice, especially if you are a large organisation.
Shifts in culture and in the general business environment happen quickly and often in today’s business landscape, so conducting surveys any less than twice per year can result in stale, unusable data over time.
4. Make them easy
Make sure your surveys are easy to access and not too long. Conduct the survey online and make it accessible through a link you can send around via email and that is available on your intranet or online learning management system.
The survey should take no longer than 10-15 minutes to complete. Any longer and staff will lose interest and answer questions without proper consideration. At the end of the day, you want your staff being productive not spending half their day filling out a survey.
When the survey is ready for staff to complete, set and communicate a deadline along with regular reminders so staff don’t forget to participate.
5. Be transparent
Share survey data with everyone in the organisation as soon as possible. There are a number of ways you can do this. Try a combination of the following: an agenda item at team meetings; a whole-of-team email; a whole-of-organization email; an address from the CEO; post results on your intranet or online learning management system; all of the above.
Include in your communications a high level plan and timetable for taking action on survey results.
6. Take action
Don’t expect the data from your surveys to always tell you how awesome it is to work at your company. No company is perfect and even the best places to work in the world invest in maintaining and improving their culture. Good staff engagement is a continuous program of improvement.
Get to work as soon as possible. Create project teams to plan and drive the change process. Open project teams up for volunteers from all teams who want to make a positive contribution to the company. Ensure senior leadership champions your change agenda.
A great company culture is the sum of a lot of different, interconnected activities and efforts. Knowing how engaged your staff are with their job and how they feel about working for your company is the first step toward creating a company culture that drives productivity and success.
Sharing is caring, so please let us know your tips for conducting staff engagement activities?
This piece was originally written and then adapted for Fridge Magazine in 2015.
Sounds great. It’s backed by research. Let’s do it.
But, what is high-value work?
For some there’s the idea of eating the frog or, doing the toughest, most uncomfortable tasks first, to get them out of the way.
For others, high value work means diving into projects that require high levels of focus, concentration or a state of flow.
These two ideas dominate the productivity landscape.
But, work that is of high-value depends on your role. Most in the productivity scene would say that email or meetings for example, are not high-value activities.
And, they’d say that these are exactly the type of tasks that one should avoid first thing in the morning. If possible, I certainly do.
As a manager or leader, your highest-value work could very well be attending to email, facilitating communication, or rounding up the team for a check-in.
Your most important work, your highest-value work is the work that is most important to your team’s mission.
So, do your most important work first. Your job is to figure out what that is and don’t worry so much about the literature. Just worry about what’s best for your team.
If you liked this article, you’ll probably like The Monthly Review. A curated monthly email with links to articles, stories and resources that help you lead, collaborate and solve interesting problems.
Being reactive costs 3 times more than planning.
As a leader, what do you do? The answer is in the middle.
Set high-level goals and lay a path for how you’re going to get there.
You can’t know exactly what it will take to achieve what you want.
And, what you want might change based on what you learn by walking down the path to your goal.
So, don’t bother with detail. Just start and be flexible.
Did you enjoy this article? Was it helpful? If so, you’ll probably like The Monthly Review. It’s a curated email newsletter that I send out once per month with the best articles, stories and resources from around the web that help you to be a better leader. It’s free, there’s no spam and no bullshit. Just click here to sign up.
If you work in an office it’s likely you’re familiar with the ‘COB’ deadline.
‘COB’ being the acronym for ‘Close Of Business’ or the old 5pm knock-off time.
“…get that report to me by COB Tuesday” or “I need that submitted by COB Friday” you’ll hear people say.
But here’s the thing. What is someone going to do with a document, report or submission that’s received at the end of the day?
The answer – probably nothing. At least not until maybe lunchtime the next business day.
Today’s workplaces are (or at least should be) characterised by people working flexible hours in flexible locations. In this kind of environment, if we’re being practical, when you tell two different people to ‘get it in by COB’, one person might send their work before 5pm, but by definition the other may send it at 11pm.
Our work cycles are no longer 9-5. The COB deadline no longer reflects the nature of the work we do in a modern office context. In essence, the COB deadline is becoming obsolete.
So what do we do? I have two suggestions.
First, try setting the deadline relative to the timelines in the project you’re working on, rather than some arbitrary end of day timeline.
Second, set deadlines for lunch time or 12pm the day after you’re thinking about setting the COB deadline. Since you’re not likely to look at what’s submitted until the next day anyway, let’s give our colleagues a) the freedom to end their work day on time if their paper isn’t quite finished and b) the chance to ‘overnight-test’ their work to ensure they’re submitting something they can be proud of.
The last thing I’d say is, when setting deadlines, let’s prioritise what our people need to do their best work, rather than prioritising what we as managers need to get our own work done. At the end of the day, this is the essence of leadership.
Monday. It’s the day we all love to dread. Garfield famously hates Mondays, and if you want to have some fun with Urban Dictionary definitions, Monday is either “the biggest waste of exactly one-seventh of your life” or “the reason Sundays suck.”
“Leonardo Da Vinci is one of the most accomplished people the world has ever known. He was not just brilliant, but prolific as well. Anyone who looked at him would probably assume that he was an unusually focused and disciplined man. Except that wasn’t the case. He spent around fifteen years developing the ideas for The Last Supper while he worked on a variety of other projects. He was criticised for being a dabbler…”
“Ah, to-do lists. The bane of our existence, the source of our stress and occasionally the symbol of our triumph. OK, I’m being a little dramatic–but those of us who’ve abided by this method of task-organisation have probably felt that sinking feeling when we realise we’ve barely made a dent in our list, and it’s the end of the work day.”
“The weight many people feel from all their excess possessions is similar to the overwhelm most people feel at work, too. Without quite realising how it got this bad, our days are bursting at the seams with emails, meetings, reports, and interruptions, leaving us tired at the end of the day and wondering what we actually accomplished.”
If an employee at your organization walked out with a brand-new laptop every day, you’d have him arrested, or at least fired… But when an employee demoralizes the entire team by undermining a project, or when a team member checks out and doesn’t pull his weight, or when a bully causes future stars to quit the organization — too often, we shrug and point out that this person has tenure, or vocational skills or isn’t so bad.
“Culture is like the wind. It is invisible, yet its effect can be seen and felt. When it is blowing in your direction, it makes for smooth sailing. When it is blowing against you, everything is more difficult.”
“The reason I lead with an open door is it is imperative to my success. If I don’t hear from every employee or the one’s that have something to say, then I don’t have a pulse on the way my company works. Whether it’s positive or negative, I need to know.”
“We’ve all been in situations in which we couldn’t wait for a slow-moving or overly cautious employee to take action. But at the other extreme, some employees have such a deep need to get things resolved that they move too quickly, or too intensely, and make a mess.”
“A happy worker is 12 percent more productive than the average employee and 22 percent more productive than the unhappy ones. Additionally, disengaged employees cost U.S. businesses up to $450 billion per year in lost productivity. The leader who fails to take these figures seriously places the longevity of their business at grave risk.”
Rewarding professional relationships are critical to your career and need to be nurtured as authentically as ties to friends and family. If you find yourself floating around solo on your jobs journey, there’s a good chance you may be doing it wrong.
“Science shows that swapping more substantive conversations for the same old vacuous small talk can help you be much happier. Which is why I’m always on the lookout for better ice breakers that the usual ‘What do you do?’ or ‘Did you catch the game on Saturday?”
“Hi. My name is Tyler, and I have mental health issues.” That’s a scary statement to hear/read, and believe me, it’s even more scary to say/write. How would you react if someone you didn’t know well said it to you?
Clinicians have long known that there is a strong link between sleep, sunlight and mood. Problems sleeping are often a warning sign or a cause of impending depression, and can make people with bipolar disorder manic.
“I sometimes write about how a good start to your day often leads to having a good day in general. A social, an energetic or a productive start sets the context for your day. But on some days you may not get a good start for some reason. Maybe you slept badly. Or the maybe grey skies and cold summer rain is dragging your energy down.”
You’re just getting started as a writer. Or you’ve been doing it your whole life. But you’ve never published a book. And you want to; you need to. You’re just not quite sure how to begin. What would it actually take?
Let’s say for argument’s sake that you work 5 days per week and get paid $30 an hour (even if you’re a freelancer being paid by the contract you should still calculate what you’re making per hour worked to maximize your productivity).
Losing that hour a day to disorganisation, costs you 5 working hours every week, (that’s more that half a day’s work) 10 hours a fortnight (getting that back could earn you a long-weekend twice per month) and 260 hours per year.
“If you’re a business owner with 10 employees, they’re costing you $78,000 a year in lost productivity.”
If you work from home for someone else, that’s time you could be spending with your family, working out, tending to your garden, going out with friends or reading your favorite book.
If you work from home as a freelancer, that lost hour per day is costing you $150 per week, $300 per fortnight or $7,800 per year. If you’re a business owner with 10 employees, they’re costing you $78,000 a year in lost productivity.
If those figures don’t make you want to get better organised, I don’t know what will. Try these tips for optimising your workspace for maximum productivity.
Change your frame of mind
Think of your workspace as a command centre. There’s a reason institutions like the military, police or fire departments enforce strict organisational practices. It’s because when the shit hits the fan, they need to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Imagine being called to put out a fire, only to find that you still haven’t rolled up your hose and don’t know where your helmet is. If you’re an aspiring high performer, you also need to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.
Over time, our offices and desks get so full of useless, non-essential garbage it’s not funny. Cull it all and get rid of everything you don’t need. Be ruthless. Old documents — file them or chuck them. Too many pens — keep a few on your desk and put the rest in your drawer or a cupboard.
Also, take some time to organise your cords and cables. Use velcro cable-ties to bunch cords together and pick a spot on your desk (preferably on your dominant hand side – more on that later) to keep devices on charge and on-hand.
When I was a younger man, I would use the single bucket technique for organising my affairs. You know the one. Ok, I’ll explain. Take income tax for example.
Receipts and pay-slips came in, I put them all in a single, unmarked shoe-box along with any and everything else (including non-tax related stuff) I thought might be important enough to hold on to, and when 30 June came around, I would spend hours sorting receipts, throwing half of them away because they were useless and usually finding a bunch of important documents missing. What and waste of time.
A few years ago I came to my senses and started trying different processes and systems that actually helped me organise my affairs in a way that saved time, saved effort and which led to better outcomes.
If you haven’t’ read it already, David Allen’s Getting Things Done: the art of stress-free productivity is a great starting point for creating systems that will help you do a better job of managing your affairs (turns out I was on the right track though. He too uses a bucket system, just with more buckets. My friend Paul Minors has written a great book summary, download it free here).
Set up your space
A work space that’s set up in the right way helps to reduce your risk of injury, save you time and energy and make you more productive. Try these tips for setting up your workspace:
Get your monitor and keyboard into comfortable positions. Offices often have workspace assessors who make recommendations about how to set up your desk to reduce the risk of injury. While that’s reason enough, knowing how to set up a safe workspace will also enhance your productivity. Do some research on workspace setup and consider getting someone in to set you up properly. Your back, eyes and whichever wrist you use to control your mouse will thank you later
To reduce clutter, only keep on your desk the office supplies that you use on a daily basis. Keep supplies you use weekly in your desk drawer and all others in a cupboard.
Keep regularly used stationery and your devices on your dominant-hand side of your desk to reduce reaching across your body. Sounds small but it will save you time and energy.
Keep your desk clear but be sure to include anything you need to facilitate the operation of your systems ie. in-trays and file holders (don’t go too minimalist). Avoid keeping too many personal trinkets on your desk – they’re just a distraction and you’re already at home so there’s no need to be reminded about how cute your cat is.
Use a clear-desk policy
It’s common for employees in government departments and some big companies to have to ensure that all desks are clear and clean before they go home. You should do the same in your home office. With a clear desk, you’ll be able to focus on work when it’s work time and forget about work when it’s not.
It will be a pain in your proverbial at first, but once you’ve been practicing a clear-desk policy for a couple of weeks it should only take you 5 minutes in the morning and evening to pull out and put away what ever it is you’re working on at the time. If it helps you to save an hour a day, it’s a winning investment of your time.
Even after changing your mindset, de-cluttering, putting systems in place and setting up your desk properly, you’re still going to get a build up of unnecessary papers and things laying around. Schedule a workspace clean up in your calendar once a month or so to keep your desk in tip-top shape.
This post is an excerpt from my article – “How to be more motivated, creative and productive than ever before: a short guide to working from home” – click here to read the whole article.
We were once limited by our existing skill set. We were locked into our speciality. If you were trained in preparing budget reports, you prepared budget reports. If you were really good at writing copy, you wrote copy. If you were a project manager, you managed projects.
There was very little room to move outside of our sphere of knowledge and skill. We were like cogs in a machine and that’s all that organisations expected of us.
But, things have changed. Organisations now need and expect people to be flexible and have a broader range of skills. Those who are able to contribute in diverse ways to important projects are valued more than anyone else.
This is great news for you and I because we now have more opportunities to make a meaningful contribution that helps our organisation grow, helps us get ahead and allows us to do interesting work outside of our existing skill set.
So how do we become the type of person who can do almost anything when in reality, we are in fact limited in many ways by our existing skill set? Answering that question could be the topic of an entire book, but just quickly, here’s one strategy.
Almost anything you need to know can be learned quickly online and Google is your secret weapon. You can learn the basics of almost anything with a Google search and some time spent reading, studying diagrams, listening to audio and watching video.
This is not to pay any disrespect to people who are actually experts. It’s just to say that a lack of access to specialised skills need no longer hold back a project in the short term; and that thanks to technology and the plethora of free resources online, we now have the opportunity to contribute in bigger and more exciting ways than before.
Here’s an example.
Let’s say your boss asks you to develop a draft communications plan for a project you’re working on, but you’ve never done one before. Maybe you’ve never even seen a communications plan.
No problem. You don’t have to be an exert to put together a good quality communications plan. You just need to Google it.
Search terms: communications plan; how to develop a communications plan; communications plan template.
Spend a couple of hours reading articles, looking at images, listening to audio and watching YouTube videos and then download and adapt the best template you can find. Now you know enough to get started and have the tools to develop a draft communications plan.
You can take this approach with almost anything: project plan, risk assessment, staff engagement survey, consumer insight research, lead indicators for an impact framework – these are all examples of tasks I’ve been asked to do at different times in my career that I had no idea how to do in the moment, but instead of saying “no, I don’t know how”, I said “sure, let me look into it”.
Finally, and this is really important, don’t pretend you’re an expert. Be confident in your ability to figure things out, but don’t say yes to things that are clearly way above your head and don’t submit something that is of poor quality. Poor quality work is a career killer.
I’ve always felt like I could take on any task, but I would always ensure my boss knew that whatever I was handing them was my first attempt and that it should be treated as a starting point. Managing expectations is key.
If she thought it was good work, great! If she thought it needed more work or required a specialist to take it further, great! Either way I contributed, solved a problem for my boss in the short term, got the ball rolling and showed the people I work with that I am someone who is talented and can be trusted to get shit done. At the end of the day, this is what managers really want: people who can get shit done!
You and I are no longer held back by our existing skill set, and the more we dive in and do the work despite our limitations, the more valuable we are to almost any project in almost any organisation.
If you like this article, you might like my email newsletter
I send out an irregular email newsletter with links to interesting articles about leadership, productivity and philosophy, plus some of my own writing.