Today’s show is about Understanding Engagement Survey Results. Listen to the show on iTunes and Stitcher.

Don: [00:00:00] Hi, I’m Don Rheem, CEO of E3 Solutions and author of the book, “Thrive By Design.” I speak across North America on the neuroscience of engagement at work. I’m passionate about helping leaders at every level to create engaging workplace environments where employees feel safe, recognized and validated. Employees who feel safe at work are happier, healthier and more productive. Each week, my team and I take on topics impacting managers and offer solutions to your biggest workplace challenges.

Don: [00:00:34] This is the, Thrive By Design, podcast.

Laurie: [00:00:37] Welcome to, Thrive By Design, the podcast. We created the show to give managers CEOs and leaders the tips strategies and tools you need to create an engaged culture at work. I’m Laurie Nappi and I’m here with Don Rheem, CEO of E3 Solutions. For the past several episodes. We’ve discussed the importance of measuring engagement, what we find when we measure engagement and the leadership dimensions that influence engagement.

Laurie: [00:01:10] In today’s episode we’re taking on a topic we hear again and again from CEOs we work with: “I have my results. Now what?

Laurie: [00:01:20] Don, what happens after my employees take the E3A?

Don: [00:01:26] Well, that’s a question I get from CEOs all the time: “What happens after I do this?”

Don: [00:01:30] Well, a number of things happen. Things happen with the report itself, that is, we’re processing the data, we’re putting it into the work groups, were assembling it by function area, with all the different ways that you want to have it reported.

Don: [00:01:46] On another hand, employees expectations are now higher because they now want to see the results. Hey, how are we doing? How is our company doing? How’s the tribe doing in terms of engagement? So they’re curious. We give a lot of attention to this for our managers and our clients and we actually give them instructions on what the next steps are. Essentially, you want to be able to share the results with the company. So after you’ve done it, you get the reports from us, you want to strategize about how you want to share the results. You want to debrief with your managers. That often happens where the head of a department will sit down with the managers and maybe someone from H.R. will be sitting in with them. We’ll share with that manager their numbers, their reports and how it relates to the company.

Don: [00:02:33] But we’re not just going to measure and then assess managers. You then want to come back and give managers the training that they need in order to increase their scores. So the third step, if you will, we say is to equip managers to get better scores later on. But, also equip the managers on how to talk about the scores with their teams. And so we give a lot of instruction about that. How should a manager talk about this with their team? So how does a CEO talk to the senior leadership team? How does the senior leadership team cascade that down to the next level of managers then all the way cascading down to each individual manager that has their own data? They need to be debriefed as well.

Don: [00:03:11] Then you want to invite the employees into the conversation and share the results. You certainly want to share the results across the board at the company level. You probably don’t want to share the results at the managerial level, publicly, because that could simply be embarrassing. We don’t want the tool to become the enemy of the manager. But then you want to invite employees into the conversation. The best places probably at the workgroup level. And we also give managers the skills, the procedure, the process for having that conversation with their team. Hey. Here are our scores. We did really well on these things and that’s something we should be proud of as a team. But we also have some opportunities as a team. And, so we show the manager how to discover what those opportunities are with their employees how to deal with them, frame them and then take action steps around them. And, then in a broader sense, after you you’ve debriefed employees, managers, employees, you then want to continue to support managers over time. Single event learning is not as effective. We need a steady drip of regular drumbeat of helping them improve their leadership skills. So you want to have learning over time. You want to have a workshop for managers on some aspect of leadership at least once every six months. Some of our clients do it once a quarter.

Laurie: [00:04:36] Let’s circle back for a moment to sharing the results at the company level, the timeliness of that. How soon employees would expect to hear back or would want to hear back from leadership about what the survey results are? And what is the message that we’re sharing with employees?

Don: [00:04:54] Smaller organizations with just a few work groups, we’ve seen senior leaders share that with their employees the day after they get the information from us because it’s easy to just let a few other leaders know. Larger organizations, we have several organizations that have hundreds of work groups, spread over large geography in the United States. And it can take them six, seven, eight months to trickle the individual reports down to individual managers. That’s a challenge. We really are working hard to accelerate that process, make it easier for managers to get access to their data, because what I would consider to be an engaged leader and engaged manager is going to look at these scores and want to act on it right away. And they do. They don’t want to wait around.

Laurie: [00:05:48] We share at the company level, out to the entire organization. We debrief with managers about their individual results and managers then debrief with their team to identify their strengths and celebrate those. And then also to identify where their opportunities for growth and change are. Right. So we need to support those managers in that process and an E3 Solutions has designed some workshops that you know answer those questions that arise coming out of the survey. The survey is a diagnostic tool. It’s going to show us what’s right and where the opportunities are.

Don: [00:06:22] Exactly.

Laurie: [00:06:23] Can we talk a little bit about the training that we can offer managers?

Don: [00:06:27] Sure. So we operate on a science foundation. Everything we do related to employee engagement is based on empirically, validated research. We don’t just make stuff up which is the typical approach in the leadership field.

Don: [00:06:46] When we put together workshops, we’d like to put together workshops where there’s clear evidence of what works what’s what human beings respond to at a neurological level, not just a cognitive level.

Don: [00:06:58] For example, one of the things that we find in our data, when we look at our global data across all the companies over all the years where companies are really struggling is around recognition and validation and giving feedback in a way that’s actually helpful. We have a workshop one validation recognition and feedback, how all three of those have a distinct strategic purpose for a manager, for an organization and then how to do each of them really really well. We have another workshop on positive leadership. One of the highest ROIs, returns on investment, with managers is helping them lead in a more positive way. That is to pull the negativity out of how they manage and lead people. That old model tends to be top-down hierarchical punitive has outlived its effectiveness in the future of work. That model will no longer be to be working well. And so we want to show leaders how to lead through a positive frame not coddling people and it’s not about letting people get away with murder but simply how to lead a better more effective positive way. We have another workshop on accountability. It’s easy to hold relatively easy to hold people accountable if you’re yelling at them and you write them up and there are all kinds of consequences if someone makes a mistake. That’s not the highest order of accountability so in our accountability workshop we focus on showing managers how to hold people accountable for their task, their deliverables without being negative. And it tracks what I talk about in chapter 6 of my book, “Thrive By Design: The Neuroscience That Drives High-Performance Cultures.” We really want to give managers a new ability to hold people accountable without just all the conflict and the drama of the traditional method.

Laurie: [00:08:48] Right. So in addition to training which happens maybe on a quarterly or biannual basis, we support managers through our online platform, The Manager Resource Center, which gives them literally, at your fingertips 24/7 resources.

Don: [00:09:09] One of these we know about training is it does improve people’s skills, but then it comes to the moment when they need to have an event like and it usually seems to happen on a Sunday evening they realize they have a feedback conversation with one of their employees the next day. They kind of remember the training but the workbook might be at the office.

Don: [00:09:29] We wanted to make sure that we could surround managers 24/7, 365, with all of our resources that we have across all of our workshops and everything that we’ve ever done.

Don: [00:09:41] We developed this platform as you said,, that every manager in companies that we survey with has access to. On that platform we offer them all the resources, for example how to prepare for feedback conversation, the kind of questions to ask what to do after the conversation to follow up. We also include links to TED talks, self-assessment tests. So, for example, one of the workshops is on positive leadership. We have a self-assessment test that a manager can take answer these questions and they end up with a score on where they stand as a positive leader, helps identify where they need to do some work.

Laurie: [00:10:29] Sounds like there’s a lot of support from the managers. So next we need to invite employees into the compensation senior leadership knows what’s going on. It’s trickled down to managers. Now we need to get the employees involved and share with them what has been learned through the survey results and get them involved. We have an exercise: the KISS exercise. Let’s talk about that for just a minute.

Don: [00:10:51] Sure. When we first started talking to companies about their results and the need for change we used a very traditional tool: the SWOT analysis. S, stood for strengths. W stood for weaknesses the, OST, stood for opportunities, and the, T, represented threats. What we discovered early on is that employees and managers are often more depressed at the end of the day than they were at the beginning because of all the focus on threats and weaknesses. So we wanted to come up with an approach to change that actually represented the science as we know it to keep it positive, proactive, affirmative. So we ended up with what we call a KISS exercise.

Don: [00:11:33] I’m not sure it’s original but I haven’t ever seen an exercise this way myself. But there are others probably doing something similar. Let’s say you’re the manager of you and you’re doing this with the employees on your team. You want to start with a string so the K represents what should we keep doing that we’ve been doing as a team that’s working, that is good, we got a high score on it. So what do we what do we need to focus on that we don’t lose that we keep? That’s the, K, in KISS. The, I, stands for what could we improve? So, we’re doing some things now but what could we improve on? In typical responses in work groups as we can improve on our communication. We can improve on the clarity around expectations. We could improve on our productivity. What could we improve? And I like the improve because hey we’re doing this but we just need to do it better, more frequently at a higher intensity, for example. The first, S, in the KISS exercise, is, hey what should we stop doing? Looking at our numbers, what they represent, what does that telling us that we’re doing as a team that we should stop doing? Typical items that show up and that exercise is we should stop the gossip. We should stop the cynicism, we should stop the undermining. We should stop and it’s often double negatives, an employee says, I want to stop being disengaged. So you just get a real rich texture from this when you get it. But it’s what people are saying let’s not do this anymore.

Don: [00:13:07] The second, S, in KISS and it’s starting again on a very positive and a proactive platform is: What should we start doing?

Don: [00:13:16] What do we need to start doing that we see in these numbers? And the way most of the numbers go for most work groups, we need to start validating each other more. We need to start giving recognition when people go above and beyond. We need to do feedback more effectively. We need to support each other. We need more fairness in the way work is allocated and how much people are doing. It’s a wonderful exercise and we actually use a platform called, Mentimeter. When we do this with a company, or a client, or a workgroup and what Mentimeter allows you to do is have employees use their phones or laptop. To answer questions like: what should we keep doing? And they can enter in the information anonymously. So it increases the candor. It increases the just the whole notion of keeping it real and it’s interesting when you get to the stop doing that people get very honest when they can throw things up anonymously. And what it does on the mentor meter platform, they entered in on their phone and we’re looking at on a flat screen TV and we’re seeing this word cloud develop. And whenever employees enter the same word it gets bigger. So its just been a great way for people to talk about that. And then when I want managers to do, we want managers to do, is to say, hey are these best practices for us? Are we saying that we’re going to start doing this as a group? And when people say yes, now we’re taking data and we’re turning it into behavioral change and we’re getting a shared social commitment to doing that as a group.

Don: [00:14:53] Employees, people are more likely to move toward a change if it’s identified. And secondly, if the whole group has said they want to do it because we’re hard-wired as social herd animals. If my clan, if my tribe, if my group said we want to move in this direction, for most employees there’ll be a desire to work together in that direction together, aligned.

Laurie: [00:15:18] It’s a great way to plan their next steps based on what their survey results are telling them.

Don: [00:15:23] Absolutely.

Laurie: [00:15:24] Great. So once managers have their survey results, what can they do to change their results? I mean, our goal is for companies to assess their teams year over year.

Laurie: [00:15:35] We’ve had previous podcasts where we’ve talked about that process but what can managers do from the end of one survey, before the next survey, to make sure that their scores increase?

Don: [00:15:46] Well, one of the things that we do for them and we use the web site to do is: we list every question, all 28 questions, why do we ask it and what are some things you could do to improve your score next year? One of the things about our survey is that every one of the questions is also a best practice. So a manager can just look down, look at the bottom eight scores you received, and if any of those questions relate directly to your behavior, act on them, shift them. Now I should back up a little bit. Of our 28 questions, think of three concentric circles, if you will. The center circle, the bulk of our questions, are things that are directly attributable to the manager. And the manager is the primary source of taking action on those items. The second concentric circle will be things that are not directly the result of a manager, but a manager can influence by how they talk about it by how they deal with it. Just validating employees and acknowledging that hey this is tough but we can still do it. There is a third, very thin concentric circle in the outside that are issues, questions that represent things the organization needs to do. More representative of the culture writ large the things that a CEO and a senior leadership team should be working on. So what I want a manager to do is to zero in on those questions that are directly attributable to them, where they received the lowest score and I want them to frame that as their opportunities. We never use any negative terminology. We don’t say weaknesses or threats or any of that stuff because it just doesn’t work. We don’t want the tool to be an enemy of the manager and we certainly don’t want to be the tool is something that shames a manager. We want the tool as you use the words, Laurie, as a diagnostic tool to understand how can we create a healthier patient. In this case, the patient is a workgroup.

Laurie: [00:17:40] Right. One of the other components of the survey are the open-ended questions. How can managers use the information from that which basically can provide general themes going on within the company and within work groups? How can managers or maybe even the H.R. departments support managers through those open-ended comments?

Don: [00:18:03] Yeah, the open-ended comments is a bit of a challenge for us and employees want to remain anonymous but they’re obviously writing these things because they want someone to take action. So we do not provide the open-ended comments at a workgroup level to a manager. We typically are aggregating the open-ended comments by a larger group a department sometimes the entire company. This would be a case of where senior leadership should review the open-ended questions identify the themes, as you said, and there some of these questions you can clearly tell what department it is, not necessarily the workgroup, but to identify the themes at that level and support managers in making their shifts. We do learn some very interesting things often in those open-ended comments. And there are on occasion we find things that are probably illegal. We always then reach out right away to a CEO and say hey this is going on. We want companies to reduce the liability of some of this behavior that employees talked about sometimes quite openly in these sessions in these open-ended questions.

Laurie: [00:19:16] Great. Was there anything else you’d like to add, Don, to about the survey and how we support companies who work with us?

Don: [00:19:26] Well, almost anything you measure moves. So the key thing is to measure engagement and then get the data out so that managers can start acting on it. The data has to be practical and actionable and that’s the key thing. I mentioned in a previous podcast, the ecosystem of this is: they asked, we told, they heard, they acted. And so this is the back end part of the process. Did they hear us? Are they talking about it? Are they pushing the results down and then are they going to act on it?

Laurie: [00:20:06] Don, thanks so much for your time today. Always enjoy having you on the show.

Don: [00:20:11] Thank you, Laurie.

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