That elusive employee engagement

As a former consultant in the compensation, benefits and HR arena, I am often asked about improving that elusive employee engagement, as if there is a formula. I was having a similar conversation this morning with a good friend and compensation person in a major organization. When I started to chuckle, he asked why?

The problem is employers have been after this difficult goal for years, but it has become even more elusive in the last ten years. Why? Because employers killed employee engagement. You cannot treat employees poorly and not shoot straight with them during difficult times, and then say every thing is alright now and we want you to be engaged.

During the most recent economic downturn and even before, employers, cut pay, froze pay, downsized, right sized, off shored, and outsourced all in the name of controlling expenses. It was not unusual for people to be let go and then walked to their desk to collect their things and escorted out the door.

Employers would say we have to hold the salary budget tight as things are tough, going to be tough or it is too soon to adjust pay. Or, one of my least favorite tactics is to let people go before salary increase time and not adjust the median increase forward. In other words, they would cut the bottom performers and force fit the performance metrics down making a “meets expectation” performer a “partially meets” as the distribution of performance is now out of whack.

Yet, it need not be this way. There was a company in Germany where leaders sat down with all employees during the recession. They said times are tough, but we all are going to give a little, so the CEO, EVPs, and all employees, took pay cuts that would be restored in full when times got better. The logic is the company did not want to let anyone go. Everyone pitched in. This is a strong message. You should not be surprised, these employees remain engaged throughout.

Employee engagement is not created by a panacea. Using the Nordstrom model, it would look like inverting the pyramid where customers are at the top and people who serve them are next, with shareholders at the bottom. The thesis is if we treat our customers and those who serve our customers well, the shareholders will make more money.Yet, this is a mission where everything flows from the customer. It also allowed a communication avenue for the best ideas to flow from those closest to the customer.

I have written before about Paul O’Neill who turned around Alcoa in the 1980s. He focused on employee safety first and foremost. Why? It was the only thing he could get management and the union leadership to agree on. As a result, communication improved up, down and across the organization as safety improved. But, with new found empowerment, process and customer service improvement ideas started flowing from those closest to the action.

Engage employees, glean their input, value their opinion and pay them fairly. If companies do that, the employees will also feel they have a stake in the game. If you set this framework in motion, decisions can be made in support of this mission, whether they be compensation, benefits, flex schedules, stock ownership, etc.

One final thought is the commitment has to be more than mere words. O’Neill got management attention when a few weeks into his tenure, an employee was killed in an accident. He gathered his leaders together and said “We killed this man. I want to know in 24 hours, how he died, why he died and what we can do to not letting it happen again.” I don’t know about you, but that is what leadership looks like. I would  be willing to work hard for this leader.

 

Saturday in the park

If you are my age or a Chicago (the band) fan, you are thinking of the next line, “I think it was the 4th of July.” It is a beautiful Saturday morning and my daughter and her friend are slowly arising. Hearing your child or children laughing is the greatest sound in the world.

We have always had a home where our children feel comfortable having their friends over. It is a treat to meet your kids’ pals and hear them having fun. It also helps as a parent to know the friends of your children in our imperfect world with greater temptations than we had growing up. This is our safe haven.

My daughter is home from her freshman year of college and we are so proud of the woman she has become. She is interested in stopping injustice to people and the environment. She is well read and active at school and has made the Dean’s List twice. She loves her professors and they offer encouragement. I was sharing with Hugh on his blog that one of her professors applauded her for writing a paper that disagreed with the author’s position, which he said he usually only sees from upperclassmen.

My oldest son moved out a month ago and is rooming with a good friend. They have a tribe of friends that hang out and look out for each other. He has taken on more responsibility and is asking more questions about living on a budget, saving, insurance, etc. He is a fine young man and a good friend, but like many his age is still finding his path forward. Working two jobs 50 – 60 hours a week is wearing him out. We do miss having him here, but are happy for his spreading his wings.

My youngest son will be home at the end of next week completing his junior year. He has changed majors and colleges and is enjoying his eclectic college in the mountains. He is relishing being a scientist and exploring wildlife biology and the environment. He will only be home briefly as he will be interning this summer at a place that takes care of different kinds of wildlife. The college is perfect for him as it is work-study program where all students have to work 15 hours a week. Plus, it attracts eclectic people who I find to be a joy. It is ironic in a state that has passed an anti-transgender and LGBT law, his dorm has unisex bathrooms and showers.

I hope everyone enjoys their Saturday and all mothers have a wonderful Mother’s Day.

 

 

 

He ain’t no CUTIE

Now that it is official and Donald Trump will be the GOP Presidential nominee, I decided to update an earlier post regarding some of my favorite and representative lies of the candidate. Two different nonpartisan fact checking organizations have noted that he has lapped the field in lying with over a 75% untruthful rate and done it more than any candidate since they started measuring such. Like many narcissists, he accuses others for lying more such as his unmerciful use of “Lying Ted.”

Since my memory is so poor and the lies told by Trump in this campaign season so prevalent, I resorted to the use of a revised acronym CUTIE to remind me of my five favorite Trump lies. These are not necessarily his best ones, but are representative.

I mention these as people will tell me that they are for Trump because he tells the truth or says what we want to say. As for the latter, I would grow concerned if you really wanted to say some of the bigoted and xenophobic stuff he babbles on about. As for the truth, based on his history and campaign statements, I would not equate what The Donald says with the truth. So, if the opportunity presents itself at a future cocktail party, remember the 75% floor figure first. But, if you need a few fun examples, here are five CUTIE Trumpisms which are not truthful.

C = Crime: To inflame a crowd, The Donald said 81% of white homicides are committed by black assailants. Actually, the percentage is more the opposite as the FBI notes that it is only 15%. I think this exemplifies Trump at his worst as it is intended to enrage a strident fan base and blame a group of people. There is a reason so many white hate groups, like the KKK and Nazi party, endorse The Donald.

U = Unemployment: The Donald said the current unemployment rate of 4.9% (now 5%) is not correct. He heard it was more like 30% and one report said 42%. This number is published monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It was 4.9% at the time and inched up to 5%. When you look at underemployment, it is higher, but nowhere near 30% or 42%. It should be noted if unemployment were that high, we would be in a severe depression. The GOP likes to harp on the Labor Participation rate which has dropped some, yet much of the drop is due to the fact it includes retirees and we are aging as a country.

T = Taxes: He has said this numerous times including the New Hampshire debates, where no one corrected him. The Donald said we are the most taxed country in the world. Not even close.  Per one measure ratioing taxes to GDP, we are 27th out of the top 30 wealthiest nations. Using a measure of taxes per capita, we are 17th. In fact, per the Paris based Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development, we are well below the average taxes per GDP rate for their 33 surveyed countries.

I = Indebtedness: Trump has said he will reduce the $19 trillion debt in eight years. That is an aggressive and improbable goal by itself, as the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Plan would take longer. Yet, he has also proposed a tax plan that will increase the debt by $12 trillion over ten years per the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. That would increase the debt by over 60% and make it next to impossible to also reduce the debt in eight years. This is why reporters need to follow-up on questions.

E = Environment: His most colorful lie may be the most ludicrous thing said by any candidate, including some of Ben Carson’s inane statements. The Donald said global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese to steal our jobs. Really? I guess those 97% of scientists, 195 countries, and every major science organization who follows these issues, are all wet. I guess since Trump said it, we don’t have to worry about it. Rather than quote facts, let me ask if it is a hoax, why is Exxon-Mobil being sued by the New York State Attorney General for misrepresenting to investors and shareholder the impact of climate change on their business? Why does Duke Energy factor climate change impact on their water reservoir evaporation loss models?

The sidebar story is the other GOP candidates did not call Trump out on these untruths. The reason is they are an extreme or even mainstream version of the narrative the GOP wants Americans to hear. The last statement on global warming is ludicrous, but not too different from other candidates who deny climate change. John Kasich was the lone wolf in this slate of former GOP candidates who notes the real concern of man-influenced climate change. No one corrected Trump on the most taxed country in the world comment, as that is what the GOP wants Americans to believe. The other three fall into the category, as well.

As I have said  before, our world is complex. It is hard enough to govern when we use factual information. Conservative or liberal, we must use real and not contrived information. What we don’t need is people advocating stuff that either they know is a lie to gain votes or don’t know which is equally bad. Given his track record of making stuff up, my money is on the former. And, that is no way to govern.

Rest in peace our blogging friend

Some of you already know that our blogging friend, Larry Paquette (aka “Barney’), has passed away. His wife Pat posted this note on his blog called Mountain Perspective.

https://mountainperspective.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/larrys-passing-away/

Larry was one of my favorite bloggers and friends. He offered a unique, independent and free-minded perspective to the day’s news and events. He was fair with his comments and when he agreed with your post, you felt you were on the right track. But, he would also tell you where you may have run off the tracks or not considered all points of view. For this, I thank him immensely and will miss his voice on his blog and in mine, as well as others, through his comments.

He lived in the mountains of California with Pat, of whom he spoke highly. In my posts about my positive relationship with my wife, he would echo my comments as sounding an awful lot like his wife, Pat. He was devoted to her.

From what he told me, he had various careers in writing and Silicon Valley. I want to confirm this in his obituary once it is published. He also was quite the artist with his wood carving boards. He shared several posts where his wares are pictured.

I am saddened also as he passed before I could meet him. I wanted to travel to the west with my wife to meet him and Pat. It was a trip we spoke of, but I had to delay when my mother’s issues flared up and we moved her to an assisted living facility. We spoke by email last December about a trip this fall.

Please go to his blog and offer words of encouragement to Pat. It is my hope she will leave his blog up, so we can read his past work into the future. Rest in peace Larry and peace be with you Pat.

 

To all our sexy mothers

To put your mind at ease, my thoughts are for our wives and single mothers, not for my mother, who I think of differently as a son, although she was quite the looker when younger. As my wife and I drive back from visiting my mother, my wife is singing along with the Divine Ms. M as she takes her turn behind the wheel.

What we and others love about Bette Midler is the range of music and emotions she will take you through from the pious to the profane. As she can be a tad bawdy, it reminded me that my wife and the mothers of our children are like Bette and should never forget that sexy woman they are.

And, it is essential that we husbands and boyfriends should remind them of such. Erika (Erika Kind) and Holly (A Heart Afire) have written posts today about unconditional love, being not only supportive but attentive to the needs of each other. See below for links to each. Being able to see past the shortcomings and see the beauty and sublime. As I write this, my wife and Bette are singing the lyric “Did you ever know that you are my hero?” which seems fitting.

Yet, we should never lose sight of her sensuality and sexuality. It is those things we do throughout the day that really are the beginning of foreplay. The kiss on the back of the neck, the phone call during the day, the touch of a hand or caress of a cheek.  Or, it may be the glimpse of how good she looks in that blouse or pair of jeans. Our friend Erika called them “almost shy gestures” that make a difference.

So, let’s not forget our sexy mothers. And, remember they are the women who look past our shortcomings. Happy Mother’s Day.

https://erikakind.wordpress.com/2016/05/03/romantic-tuesday-5/

https://aheartafire.wordpress.com/2016/05/03/diamond-well/

When fear mongering is your main argument


It is hard to back away from an erroneous point, when fear mongering is your argument. Let’s face it, fear sells. This is why politicians use it and why it is used in commercials to push product.

Politicians tend to use it most when their arguments are poor or the data goes largely against their points. Some of the Presidential candidates have said the Affordable Care Act will cost us millions of jobs, when, in fact, it has not and is working pretty well, but could stand a few improvements. Same with the economy, as some Presidential candidates say it is horrible, yet it is doing pretty well.

In my home state of North Carolina, our General Assembly passed an unconstitutional law that restricts the rights of LGBT citizens, in general, but specifically targets transgender people by restricting them to the bathroom based on their birth gender.

This law was passed and signed in twelve hours in an especially called General Assembly session. It was designed, but went further, to overturn an ordinance in Charlotte which mirrored 200 similar laws nationwide permitting transgenders to use the restroom of identification.

To sell the law, fear was used. Direct fear that any man could choose to go in the restroom with your little girl. Indirect fear is implied that transgenders must also be perverts, which is not based in fact. These are people trying to find themselves. They are discriminated against based on lack of understanding.

Yet, in 200 cities that have these laws, examples of inappropriate use are hard to come by. The fear has been sensationalized to the point it is hard to reason with someone. It also made it difficult for the General Assembly to back away as they know they screwed up.

A similar law was ruled unconstitutional by the Court of Appeals in Virginia, which would oversee an appeal of the lawsuit against the state. The Attorney General for the state refuses to defend the law in court, which he has done before on laws that were ruled unconstitutional passed by this GOP led Assembly.

The law has received a huge backlash from business with canceled expansion plans, canceled conventions, canceled shows and reduced turnout at the spring Furniture Market in High Point. It is expected that the fall market will be decimated as the designers had  already committed to the spring show.

Even with these concerns, the law will make things worse on the restroom issue and is unenforceable unless each restroom will use a policeman. Many transgender people look like their gender of identification, so being required to use the restroom of gender birth will be a problem. Also, some have had their gender legally changed and they would run afoul of the new law.

This law was rushed through in twelve hours. Many folks did not know the LGBT restrictions were added, which are discriminatory by themselves. It was passed on fear. So, these lawmakers who know they screwed up have boxed themselves in.