The Importance of Real Human Connection for Optimal Productivity

The recent shift to remote working by organizations trying to protect employees from the Corona Virus has increased the use of digital communications. The question remains how do we keep engagement high and relationships real in distributed teams.

What is the Impact of Employee Engagement?

When researching Employee Engagement, one finds masses of statistics showing its impact on business. Some of the general findings show that engaged individuals deliver the following:
1. Improved customer service – this drives sales and profits.

  1. Increased quality – this creates satisfied customers who are also more open to price increases, this increases profits.
  2. Improved safety records – This makes for happier employees, as they don’t suffer injury due to negligence. It also means that employees have more time and energy to building the rest of the business. Decreased safety incidents also save the company money from a risk perspective.
  3. Better collaboration and teamwork as employee retention is higher and therefore teams have time to build deep and trusting relationships.

What is Employee Engagement Really?

The site CustomInsight defines employee engagement as “the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work.” Therefore engaged individuals feel:
a. free to be openly passionate about their jobs,
b. that they belong within the team, project, and organization, and;
c. that they want to “go the extra mile” to ensure the success of the company, team, and project. (Note here that although they too want to succeed, their primary goal is the success of the team because they know the team will honor the employee’s role in the success.)

For this to happen they must feel that they belong and that they are respected. That makes sense but let’s look at why those particular factors are so important.

How Does this Relate to Levels of Motivation?

In the 1940s Abraham Maslow studied human motivation and proposed his  Hierarchy of Needs. In this system, we find Belonging, Esteem and Self-Actualization in the hierarchy. When individuals have achieved a sense of Belonging in the team (Level 3) and the team has shown appreciation for their contribution (Level 4) their Esteem needs are met. Only when those two levels have been achieved can someone start to Self-actualize (Level 5). At the Self-actualization level, we see people achieving greatness because they are functioning to their full potential.

What is Considered a Real Connection?

The important point here is that the only way for someone to feel accepted, appreciated and supported is for them to be their authentic self without fearing discrimination. This is the basis of real human connection. This is when we really “get” someone, not just know them and how many family members they have. Instead, we connect with their challenges, their passions, and their concerns. Therefore, for people to really perform optimally, and be most productive, they need an environment where they can be appreciated for their real selves and be as strongly connected to others. It takes real empathy and caring to get a relationship to this level.

The rapid switch we are seeing to digital channels should not be undertaken without acknowledgment that we need to keep things real. That teams will bond around their attachments, not their commitments, and therefore we have to keep the real contact alive.

If you would like assistance creating the human connection with your remote team look at our online training or reach out to us on +27 (0) 82 550 8867.

 

Setting Strategies for 2020

Intrinsic to this time of the year is the need to reflect on the year that has passed. A review of the “what was”, “what could have been” and the “oops, that should not have been” events.

The next logical step is to start planning for the year ahead. That makes this my favorite time of the year as strategy sets my heart on fire. The idea of planning for new, innovative, world-changing, purpose-fulfilling activities is just up my alley.

Unfortunately, that is where I see things go wrong as, whether we are setting life strategy or business strategy, there are a few mistakes I think we often make in an attempt to be rational and logical about where we want to be in the future.

Now make no mistake, I believe in the power of strategies and goals, and their ability to help us focus on what we want to get out of life in general. However, the following mistakes limit us in our ability to leverage our goals properly.

1. Basing strategies on what was achieved in the past

Henry Ford is quoted as saying “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” With that thinking, cars would never have been invented. In the same way, limiting the future by tying it down to the achievements of the past is counterintuitive.

Tip: Instead of basing strategies on what has been achieved, base them on big hairy audacious goals, as mentioned by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in their book “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies”. Then challenge yourself and your employees to get it done. It is likely to have a great team-building effect.

2. Aiming too low

A well-known idiom is that if you aim for the moon, and you miss, you will land amongst the stars. Often in business risk-aversion sets in and the passion that drove the entrepreneur fades. The problem here is that if you aim low and you miss your target you will have gained nothing. However, if you listen to the idiom the advantage of aiming too high is that even if you fail you will still have exceeded expectations. That translates to a win, even if you fail.

Tip: Set a target and then add on another 10-15 percent, whether in targets, increased metrics or productivity, whatever works in your environment. If you reach your initial target, celebrate – you did well. If you exceed that and reach the stretch-target celebrate even more knowing that, either way, you have gained.

3. Lack of personal contribution

One of my favorite quotes is from Nelson Mandela who said: “Your playing small does not serve the world. Who are you not to be great?” Other than avoiding disappointing others, such as investors and spouses, I believe that sometimes we set “easy strategies” to reduce stress on ourselves. In the process though we rid ourselves not only of a potential sense of achievement but we also run the risk of not making a personal contribution and developing ourselves which is shown to decrease feelings of personal worth.

Tip: Ask yourself what would bring fulfillment in your life and set your strategies and goals for 2020 so that you may end the year feeling you have grown as a person and that you are fulfilled, purposeful and happy. 

I hope that 2020 is a very successful year for each reader and that you “shoot the lights out” as they say.

Please feel free to reach out and let me know if you have other pointers on how to optimize strategy for 2020. I can be found at innocente@performforward.com, or follow me on LinkedIn.

 

Getting the most “bang for your buck” from continuous learning

 

An investment in knowledge pays the best returns – Benjamin Franklin.

As a past learning and development manager I have a particular passion for the importance of continuous learning and believe the quote above says it best. 

Think about it, how many companies are considered financially successful, but anyone in the know will tell you that the company does not develop its employees. What does that say about the company? How do you respond to this? Is that company not similar to an individual successfully investing, and making, money but never spending any of it on their own personal development? It is easy for us to criticize but maybe our first response would be to look at whether we are developing ourselves. 

The exciting thing about this is that the advent of digital communication has provided us with an enormous mix of channels to receive training. No more do we have to sit through boring presentations, write an exam or study for four years to start building expertise in any number of topics. Now the thought leaders are within reach and we, as learners, have access to a variety of platforms and perspectives around their chosen topics. Continuous self-improvement is now, more than ever, easier and mandatory as everyone has more access to a once limited resource.  

The only restriction is the amount of time and money that you would like to invest in your future. In order to help you make the best choice I have compiled a few pointers on choosing the right initiatives to support your journey of continuous improvement. Remember you can use this to evaluate all of the initiatives you are interested in. Continuous improvement is not about doing a one day course once a year. 

Tips for choosing a tool to support your continuous improvement:

  1. Communication channels are important as they keep the course interesting. Ensure that there is a mix of how the content is communicated. Some of these channels could include webinars or video calls, podcasts or recorded content, manuals or training notes. 
  2. Make sure that there is enough overlap between your learning style and the channels used in the training. Whether you are an auditory, visual, social or any other form of learner, always ensure that the course is well suited to your preferred ways of learning. 
  3. Make sure that the content is stretched over a period of time. In order to really absorb the content it is often best to learn a few details and practice them before moving onto the next lesson. This modular approach also facilitates using the training as reference material. 
  4. Social learning is important. Learning from others, whether commenting on a blog or sharing learnings on Facebook groups or even being on a shared WhatsApp group, there should be more than one voice. Ensure that you have an opportunity to soundboard with others or have access to questions other individuals have asked. 
  5. Be sure that you have a firm grasp on your training requirements. While training is always valuable, it can get a bit pricey so be sure that you attend the right training for the right reasons. Also, be sure to see where you can leverage training that will count towards CPD points. That way you not only be developing yourself but will be doing it in alignment with the relevant professional bodies.  
  6. Learn from a credible and listen-worthy facilitator. Before choosing training do check out the facilitator(s). Be sure you understand their background and their credentials. You want to be sure they are worth listening to and will have a lot of knowledge and experience to share. 

I hope that the list assists you on making some great selections to start, or continue, you on your development journey. Please feel free to reach out and let me know if you have other pointers on how to choose personal development initiatives. I can be found at innocente@performforward.com, or follow me on LinkedIn

For small business owners one such source of training is the Business Solutions Simplified course which is presented by Noble Group’s founder Renate Jute.

 

Part 3: How to ignite your employees’ passion and purpose

“100% of customers are people. 100% of employees are people. If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business.” – Simon Sinek

This series is based on my Passion and Productivity workshop. Last week we looked at how employees could be left feeling unengaged  due to the way they were treated. This week we are going to take a look at how we can better try and understand the factors behind human motivation. For a more indepth explanation view my video.

As you may have realized, if you are following this series, my mission is to give employees their spark back. Often times I find that in business we are good at the business of business, but not at the people part of the business. In the quote above, Simon Sinek perfectly captures the importance of why business leaders need to understand their employees’ (and their customer’s) perspective on the world. The question that often is asked is “how do we know what motivates individuals in our business?”. And let’s face it, it is difficult given the diversity in organizations today. However I would like to propose that Maslow’s work on human motivation still holds water, even more than 70 years later.

The nature of human motivation

In 1943, Abraham Maslow published a paper in which he focused on the nature of human motivation. He identified five distinct human needs that follow on each other to form his now famous hierarchy of needs, as seen in the figure below:

The first and second rungs of the pyramid focus on people’s most basic needs for food and security. The third rung focuses on how people relate to each other outside of their immediate environments, while people at the fourth rung will ask: “Am I appreciated?” People who reach the fifth rung have achieved everything they could and are looking to give back to society.

Screenshot 2019-03-26 at 15.37.39

What does this mean in business?

It’s important to know where in the hierarchy your employees find themselves. When you understand where your employees fit into Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you will have a better understanding of how to motivate them in the workplace. You will understand what they need from you as their employer and where they are in relation to what you can offer them.

An employee at the safety and security phase will have different needs than the employee at the self-actualisation phase. Businesses that are looking to grow and expand will have to pay particularly close attention to which employees are able to grow with them.

Motivation to Purpose and Passion

Sometimes, it will be a difficult – but necessary – to have this discussion. It’s better for an employee to be in a place where they can have more purpose and passion, than to try and fit into an organisation that’s unable to meet their needs.

Do you agree with my application of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to the workplace? Let me know via email or in the comments below. To learn more, visit www.performforward.com.

Part 2: How larger organizations detract from employee passion and purpose

I recently presented a workshop on passion and productivity (see video here) where I explored what happens to employees’ purpose when businesses scale headcount but not “heart count”.

In my previous post, I challenged business leaders to rethink how they approach human performance by creating a synergy between business objectives and productivity – and I argued that purpose should be the core driver of both. But what happens to this sense of purpose in larger and highly regulated companies?

Background: Transactional Analysis

To understand how employees respond in the workplace, one can apply Eric Berne’s theory of Transactional Analysis to the employee experience.

Dr Berne theorised that in any human interaction there are three main ego states at play in each participant: the parent, the adult, and the child. Each individual has the capacity to access any of these three states during an interaction and their choice dictates how the other person(s) will respond. So for example if someone felt they were being scolded they would respond from the child ego state. Or, if they felt they were not being listened to they would respond like a frustrated parent. For a more detailed understanding of the theory watch this video.

But what does this mean for us as in business?

Dynamic in larger companies

The responses of these ego states can explain why employees respond in different ways. When we position messages in a way that takes away people’s freedom to perform; when we take away their power and their purpose and leave them with the ‘thou shalts’ we are treating them like children. It is then that we elicit behaviour that reflects that of a rebellious child.

Imagine for a moment that you work at a company where suddenly one day, without too much notice, you are told that it is mandatory to wear a uniform. You never wore one before and the nature of your work doesn’t require you to do so. What would happen? Research suggests people will slowly start to come up with creative ways to break the rule and get out of wearing a uniform.

This parent vs child pattern is often seen in large companies which are highly regulated and where employee’s individual freedoms are curtailed without much consideration of the individuals. Normally the pattern of communication is top-down, and reminiscent of “parental”.  Passion and purpose is sacrificed in the process as employees move to child mode.

The ego states and small business

In contrast, when we look at a small business, we see a lot of the spontaneous child and adult at play. In a small business, you can do what you are good at; you can focus on your strengths and your natural talents. That’s why small businesses work so well – people are in love with what they are doing and free to perform according to their strengths. And because they are left to do what they’re good at, they automatically take responsibility for themselves and they don’t need supervision.

Now, I am not saying that there should be neither rules nor structure in business. I am saying though that if we could understand how we as individuals relate to each other and drive the behaviour of others, we can learn how to get the best out of every communication. We can learn to bring about adult-to-adult conversations. Once you understand how and why people respond to the same communication in different ways, you can start to play with your modes of communication to get the most out of your workforce. Understanding behaviour is of the utmost importance when it comes to building a company based on passion and purpose.

Have you had a similar experience in your workplace? Let me know via email or in the comments below. To learn more, visit www.performforward.com.

Sign up for the Passion to Productivity workshop.

Learn More about Transactional Analysis with this article.

Part 1: When great performers go bad

In my previous post I relayed the story of the business owner who was lamenting the lack of passion and purpose among his employees. He couldn’t understand the drop-off in productivity and performance from employees who had previously been super-stars. This is the true nemesis of the business owner. Poor performance is poor performance and there are mechanisms to deal with that but what happens when great performers go bad? Why does it happen? How long does it last? How do you fix it?

In my day-to-day consulting activities a substantial part of my discussions with business owners, CEO’s and HR managers focus on people performance issues. Most often these focus around a few common themes which, along with the example above, include the following:

·     Why is there so much politics? When we were a smaller group we had less and accomplished more.

·     I don’t understand why [insert employee name] is so difficult to get along with. It was easier when we could all make decisions together.

·     We made more money and we were much more innovative when we were smaller and less of a “business”.

·     When we were a smaller group everyone just worked well together, we were going to take over the industry and reshape it. Now we battle to get everyone to work together even if we have the skills.

·     Why is everyone waiting for a handout? What happened to everyone’s sense of ownership?

My personal feeling is that as business people we are very good at scaling businesses and ensuring the basics are covered. We make certain that there is enough cashflow, the correct infrastructure is in place, we have enough employees to cover the increased workload. In common parlance the latter can be referred to as appropriately scaling headcount. My sense is that we are failing at scaling “heart count”. We are good at ensuring that we have employees available to do the work but we don’t scale companies in a way that ensures that those employees can bring their hearts and minds along for the journey.

If the above sounds familiar I would like to ask you to think of a time before things changed. A time when everyone was optimally productive. Was it a time before rapid growth in the business? Was it a time before a major shift occurred in the business’s offerings? Was a new management structure coming into place? If so, could that have been the cause of the change? My workshop focusses on what goes wrong when we don’t scale “heart count” along with businesses, but simultaneously I can tell you that some of these issues occur at other phases of growth as well.

This is what my Passion and Productivity workshop is about. It asks how we can ensure that great performers don’t go bad. How do we ensure that they have purpose and passion as well as productivity while we continually scale our businesses in a variety of ways. View the short introductory video. (A shout-out to Urvesh Rama from www.urphotography.co.za for the video footage.)

Over the next few weeks I will continue posting snippets from the workshop, both in video and in blogs, to help you find out how you can address this issue in your organization.

Have you had a similar experience in your workplace? Let me know via email or in the comments below. To learn more, visit www.performforward.com.

 

Unlocking potential and productivity

Are you ready to boost productivity, unlock your employees’ potential, and increase workplace performance? Then, read on …

I once spoke to a business owner who was lamenting the lack of passion among his employees. He couldn’t understand it, he told me, when they were just a handful of people in the business they had boundless energy and enthusiasm. They were going to change the world – they had a strong sense of purpose. But now that they had just under a 100 people, the client saw a dramatic decrease in productivity and profit. He knew that he had good people – so what was causing the decline? What happened to the passion that drove them when they were starting out?

Why I started PerformForward

I’ve come across this scenario countless times in my work as an HR transformation consultant. I must admit, at first I couldn’t understand why people sometimes don’t enjoy their jobs. I’ve always loved work; I was 14 years old when I started my first casual job and I never looked back.

So, I decided to share my love of work with other people. My passion – my “Why?” with apologies and great thanks to Simon Sinek – is helping people find a sense of purpose and fulfilment in their work. That is why I started my company – PerformForward.

What is PerformForward?

At its core, PerformForward is a company that helps business owners understand how they can unlock their employees’ potential. We look beyond traditional HR approaches to the heart of your business – your employees.

“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.” – Doug Conant

Our mission is to help companies improve employee experience, unlock employee potential and increase performance capability. Our approach is based on a three-pronged philosophy: engage, focus, and perform.

What do we do?

We know that there are many aspects to motivating employees to do their best, which is why we look at five critical factors in your business:

  • Strategy
  • Culture
  • Leadership
  • Performance management
  • Employee engagement

These factors are inextricably linked and need to be given equal attention if you want to grow your business and its workers.

How can we help your business?

At PerformForward, we are passionate about working with companies that appreciate their employees and the value they add. Our forward-focused approach is based on over 20 years of business experience in various disciplines, including psychology, human resources, organizational development, internal communications, project management and marketing.

This allows us to create bespoke solutions tailored to each company’s unique needs. We provide business leaders with feedback based on current trends and empower them with strategies to overcome challenges in the workplace.

It is time to reinvent how we approach human performance by creating a synergy between business objectives and productivity. Purpose should be the core driver of each and the common denominator across the board.

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing videos and stories from a recent workshop that I presented on the link between passion and productivity. I’ll share valuable insights and advice on how to reignite your employees’ passion and productivity and how you can find your business purpose – and help your employees find theirs.

Until then, get in touch with me on LinkedIn or via email to learn more.