Wednesday, August 9, 2017

How Purpose Drives Engagement

What Drives Employees? A look at how Purpose, Autonomy and Mastery at work leads to increased motivation and employee engagement - Part 1 of 4

By Chris Atkinson, HR Consultant, Organizational Strategy, CPS HR Consulting  

In the first post in this series, we introduced three factors at work that can lead to increased engagement and motivation: purpose, autonomy and mastery. These factors, identified by Daniel Pink in his book Drive, also align with questions on our employee engagement survey. You can view that post here.   In this post, we will examine Pink’s first factor, purpose, which aligns with our survey question “The work I do is meaningful to me.” 

In Drive, Pink talks about how people who find meaning and purpose in their work are tapping into one of the greatest motivating factors. He argues that people want to have a sense of “doing something beyond themselves." Having a sense that there is a good reason behind your work is what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning and into work with a genuinely positive attitude. Think about jobs that you have had. When you had a job where you could see the purpose and meaning behind what you did every day, weren’t you more engaged than when you worked in jobs where you could not see the reason behind what you were doing?

So, what steps could your organization take to increase the sense of meaning and purpose employees feel in their work, or for that matter, any other area of employee engagement?

Action Planning for Purpose
Before we talk about what you can do to create a greater sense of meaning and purpose in employees’ work, let’s first talk about how to approach increasing employee engagement in general. Without getting into too much detail, there are a few key steps you would need to take at a minimum:
  1. Conduct an employee engagement survey so that you can accurately capture the level of employee engagement in your workforce.
  2. Identify the questions that focus on factors that influence employee engagement the most in your organization through some type of statistical analysis, such as the key driver analysis mentioned in the first article in this series.
  3. Have conversations with employees to uncover root causes behind the responses to survey questions identified in step two. 
  4. Create a plan of action to address and improve scores on the targeted questions.
While it is important to speak with employees to gain insight into the underlying factors and perceptions behind question responses before deciding on an action plan, we also like to give our clients some general action planning tips to increase scores on specific survey items. So, what do you think might be appropriate steps if your organization had identified that "The work I do is meaningful to me" as a question to focus improving responses to? You could consider the following:
  • Help employees identify the types of work that will bring them a sense of engagement and meaning. 
  • Identify the key strengths of each employee and help ensure that their job allows them to use their strengths. When employees feel they are doing what they are good at, they will be more likely to find meaning in their work. 
  • Encourage managers/supervisors to work with their employees to put them in the right situations for them to excel (even if this means that an employee will need to move to another unit ).
  • As part of one-on-one meetings with employees, discuss whether they find meaningful purpose in their work. If not, discuss how to connect their work with important outcomes.
Stay tuned for the next segment in our series in which we examine how the survey question “I have a choice in deciding how I do my work” relates to Pink’s concept of autonomy, drives engagement, and the things you can do to increase employees’ sense of autonomy. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

What Drives Employees? A look at how Purpose, Autonomy and Mastery at work leads to increased motivation and employee engagement - Part 1 of 4

By Chris Atkinson, HR Consultant, Organizational Strategy, CPS HR Consulting  

There are a variety of different factors that motivate and engage employees. One of the hotly debated topics for decades has been whether extrinsic or intrinsic factors are more powerful in motivating employees.  One of the leading business thinkers in the realm of work motivation, Daniel Pink, in his book Drive, makes the case that using extrinsic motivators (such as money) is not the most effective way to motivate employees in today’s work environment. Rather, the key is to tap into employees’ internal reward system, their intrinsic motivators. He has identified three specific intrinsic motivating factors through his research that drive performance in today’s work environment: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
  • Purpose: The desire to do something that has meaning and is important 
  • Autonomy: The desire to be self-directed 
  • Mastery: The urge to get better skills
You can hear more about these three factors in Pink’s TED talk , one of the top 25 most popular of all time.
The results of our national study examining employee engagement in the public sector support Pink’s theory. Our results show that one of the consistent key drivers of employee engagement across local, state, and the federal government was the “My Work” survey question category, which measures personal experiences related to the job. It is considered a key driver because from a statistical standpoint this category has some of the greatest influence on organizations’ overall engagement scores. In other words, this factor, if improved, will likely move the needle of engagement. 

Three of the questions in the “My Work” survey category include “I have a choice in deciding how I do my work”, “I am sufficiently challenged by my work”, and “The work I do is meaningful to me”. 
The motivational factors that Pink espouses tie very well to three of the questions in the “My Work” survey category.
  • Purpose: “The work I do is meaningful to me”
  • Autonomy: “I have a choice in deciding how I do my work”
  • Mastery: “I am sufficiently challenged by my work”
Throughout this four-post series, we will be diving deeper into each of these three questions to explore what they mean and things organizations should consider doing to promote greater feelings of purpose, autonomy, and mastery in employees. Stay tuned for the next post where we will dive in deeper to the first motivational factor, purpose, measured by our survey question, “The work I do is meaningful to me”.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

No Half Measures: Bring Your Whole Self to Work

By Janelle Callahan, Principal Consultant, Institute for Public Sector Employee Engagement, CPS HR Consulting

There are many different definitions and measures of employee engagement, and in fact, there are far too many conflicting perspectives out there, which can make it difficult to decide what to do. For this reason, we at CPS HR’s Institute for Public Sector Employee Engagement offer a practical solution to measure engagement. One of the six questions in our measure of employee engagement is, “I feel comfortable being myself at work.” This question is designed to measure the connection between the employee and the organization, and this item hones in on inclusion, e.g.,do you feel like you belong here? Do you feel accepted and appreciated for who you are?

This question comes from the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) 2016 Merit Principles Survey. MSPB’s policy and evaluation team publish practical and insightful studies of employee engagement. MSPB is a small federal agency with about 200 employees, and its mission is to uphold federal merit systems principles, including adjudicating employee appeals of personnel actions, and complaints under laws like the Whistleblower Protection Act.

Google also uses a variation of this question in its own cultural assessments. They compare responses on this question by demographic (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, cultural backgrounds). In a re:Work guide, they note: “The Google team is working to understand how unconscious bias affects people’s beliefs, experiences and attitudes at work, and promote a climate of inclusion and a sense of fairness… Comparing responses to questions like – ‘I feel comfortable being myself at work, even when I am different from others,’ and, ‘Google is a place where all types of Googlers (e.g., all genders, ethnicities, cultural backgrounds) can succeed to their full abilities’ - allow analysts to assess those feelings of inclusion.”

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is well-known for promoting this principle of feeling comfortable at work: “A lot of people [act] different on the weekends versus the office. It's like they leave a big part of themselves at home. We encourage our employees to be themselves. We want them to be the same person at home and the office” (Entrepreneur).

There are some awkward things with this ideal, however. One person’s comfort may be another person’s discomfort. During a training session, I heard one manager, imagining her employee’s negative response to this question, jokingly remark: “She could be comfortable and still wear her shoes around the office.” This example of someone who takes their shoes off at work is a little silly, but it highlights how there are all kinds of situations to navigate at work having to do with individuals trying to be themselves.

According to results from our national study, about 80 percent of government and private sector employees say they feel comfortable being themselves at work. State government employees reported slightly lower levels of agreement – 77 percent, while local government employees registered slightly higher rates – 83 percent.

Join us for a webinar in which we will further discuss this question and measuring engagement.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Do Employees Really Care About Employee Engagement Survey Action Planning?

By Chris Atkinson, HR Consultant, Organizational Strategy, CPS HR Consulting

When the California Department of Human Resources (CalHR) recently hosted a conference focused on sharing HR best practices and innovative ideas to help California state government tackle its most pressing HR issues, Bob Lavigna, Director for the Institute for Public Sector Employee Engagement (IPSEE) was a natural fit to share his expertise and insight. Bob focused on a couple case studies of government organizations that saw large levels of improvement in the engagement of their workforce and subsequent measures of performance. So, for this session, Bob focused on arguably one of the most impactful categories: How to use the employee engagement survey process to increase organizational performance.

One of the main themes throughout the presentation was the importance of action planning based on survey results to help improve engagement, satisfaction, and ultimately productivity and retention, to hopefully be reflected in results in the next survey administration. While it’s true that action planning is a hot topic in the employee engagement world, it may not be obvious on the surface just how it can increase engagement. Let’s look at what some of the leading research has to say on the topic, and also review an example from the federal government.

Findings from surveys

Gallup, a recognized leader in research across multiple industries, has been measuring employee engagement for decades and has included research on the importance of action planning. Respondents in workgroups across two consecutive survey administrations were asked to indicate how strongly they agree or disagree with the statement, “Action plans from the last survey have had a positive impact on my workplace.” Gallup then sorted workgroups into quartiles based on their response to that action planning item. The result showed that workgroups in the top quartile increased their employee engagement scores by an average of 10%, whereas workgroups in the lowest scoring quartile showed a decrease in engagement scores by an average of 3%. So the groups that strongly agreed that their action plans had a positive impact showed significant increases in their employee engagement levels. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management, a federal government agency, administers an annual employee engagement survey called the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS). In 2016, 77 federal agencies participated, with a total of over 407,000 respondents. It is one of the single largest employee engagement survey efforts by any entity in the United States. Of the participating agencies, NASA consistently has one of the highest overall employee engagement scores, year over year, compared to other large federal agencies. So, what’s the secret to their success in employee engagement?

One clue can be found when we look at how NASA’s survey scores add up in response to the FEVS question, "I believe the results of this survey will be used to make my agency a better place to work." In 2016 across the entire federal government, NASA’s score on this question came in at 62%, significantly higher than the average of 41% across the entire federal government that either agreed or strongly agreed with this statement. Not surprisingly, other federal agencies with high overall levels of employee engagement also have higher than average levels of agreement with the question, "I believe the results of this survey will be used to make my agency a better place to work." It’s easy to see that those who feel the survey will be used to impact their workplace in a positive way are also more engaged.

What does all of this tell us?

Employees are responding to action planning – or lack thereof - and it’s reflected in their level of engagement. So, what are some of the ways in which you can increase employees’ perceptions that action is being taken on the survey results? One way is by making sure to include employees in the conversation. The action-planning process should not completely take place behind closed doors. You can think of the employee engagement survey as a conversation starting tool. Action planning by itself can help increase employee engagement because the process demonstrates that employees’ opinions matter. Conducting the survey gives you a reason and an avenue to uncover and discuss issues, that if resolved, will drive engagement in your workplace. Depending on the survey areas you decide to address, it may also be helpful to include employees in task forces to uncover the root causes behind the issues and help develop the action plan. Once the action plan has been developed, it’s critical to communicate about it and periodically provide progress updates to employees.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The leadership role in engagement: How to train 30,000 state government leaders

By Janelle Callahan, Principal Consultant, Institute for Public Sector Employee Engagement, CPS HR Consulting

Leadership is a vital piece of engagement puzzle. So how do we keep those in leadership roles aware and up to speed with how to be an effective leader who promotes engagement? 

Google’s re:Work platform features a new case study about how the California Government Operations Agency (GovOps) created a set leadership of values and a new supervisory training program. My organization, CPS HR Consulting, was one of three training providers that partnered with the state to pilot and assess the revised curriculum and training experiences. (On a personal note, I was not at all surprised to learn that our very own Melissa Asher, CPS HR’s Director of Training and Recruitment, and a dynamic and admired leader in her own right, was a key team member on this great project).

Results of the evaluation suggest that more emphasis on coaching and feedback at all levels is needed. Participants and their managers were asked to rank-order the top five competencies (out of 20) to be successful in a leadership role. Interestingly, there were differences between participants whose managers responded to the survey, and those who did not.

The top three competencies most important to success as ranked by participants whose managers did not respond were:
·       Performance management;
·       Communication; and
·       Onboarding

For those participants whose managers did respond, they ranked the following as their top three:
·       Values;
·       Decision-making skills; and
·       Giving and receiving feedback

The results suggest that supervisory training participants with less-involved managers have different perspectives on leadership competencies, possibly shaped by poorer experiences with their own managers.  Read the full case study here.

P.S. If you’re not familiar with re:Work, I recommend checking it out. In 2015, Google launched the site to share research and lessons learned from its famously effective people practices. They occasionally highlight insights from other organizations, including public sector agencies like California’s GovOps.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Engagement Lessons Learned from Local Government

By Janelle Callahan, Principal Consultant, Institute for Public Sector Employee Engagement, CPS HR Consulting

ICYMI – Check out Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed’s TEDCity2.0 Talk and his reflections on it in an episode of TED Radio Hour, Building Better Cities.

Mayor Reed talks about how, in his campaign, he learned a valuable lesson from a constituent. “What I learned that day is what you really have to do when you're trying to lead people is find out what they care about and what needle they want moved,” said Mayor Reed in an interview. It’s good advice for any leader – to try and see the world from the perspective of your people who are most in need – and make progress on the issues they care about.

He also talks about the speed at which change can happen in cities, “You see, I don’t need 218 votes in Congress, or I don’t need 91 votes in the Georgia Legislature to move. I need eight votes on the Atlanta City Council to make change.”

Mayor Reed makes good points about the speed of change in cities and the closeness in which leaders and city employees are in relation to the citizens they serve. Perhaps these are some reasons why our national poll results* show that local government workers are more likely to be fully engaged compared to federal and state government workers. We define someone as “fully engaged” if they have an average score of four or higher (out of five) in response to our six engagement questions.

We found that 44 percent of local government employees are fully engaged versus only 34 percent in the federal government and 29 percent in state government. We also found that local government workers were more likely to agree that change is managed well in their organizations (53 percent agree compared with only about 40 percent of state and federal workers).

Our nation’s large cities offer exciting opportunities for employees to make a difference. As Kasim Reed says, “Cities are where hope meets the street, and if you don't want to spend your whole life waiting to change something, I happen to believe that you ought to be in cities. You pick an issue, and we are dealing with those issues head-on at cities.”

*National poll on employee engagement (In-press). CPS HR Institute for Public Sector Employee Engagement, Sacramento, CA.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Celebrate Public Service Recognition Week

By Janelle Callahan, Principal Consultant, Institute for Public Sector Employee Engagement, CPS HR Consulting

This week is Public Service Recognition Week, a grassroots effort to honor federal, state, and local government employees, coordinated since 1985 by the Public Employees Roundtable and member organizations.

Results from our July 2016 national poll suggest public sector employees, and especially federal employees, could really use the support, too. We found that the top culture driver of employee engagement is, “I feel valued for the work I do.” Results of the poll indicated that the overall government score for this statement is significantly lower than the private sector score: only 67 percent of government respondents overall agreed, compared to 72 percent of private sector respondents. By level of government, federal employees had the lowest level of agreement (63 percent), followed by state (66 percent), and local government (69 percent) employees.

A closer look
Why would the federal government have a lower percentage of employees who feel appreciated? One possibility is that they may not have as many personal interactions with citizens, compared to local and state government employees, and therefore, there may be fewer opportunities for appreciation to be expressed directly. The public may also not be as aware of what federal government workers do, unlike the local and state employees they may encounter in their neighborhoods and communities.

That’s why we believe the Partnership for Public Service and its Service to America Medals (Sammies) are so important. Check out the stories of the 2017 Sammies finalists announced today -- and be sure to take the time to thank a public servant this week!