Monday, September 27, 2010

Disengage Your Disengaged Employees

Your success is dependent on your people. Do you know who your people are? According to the market research firm ORC there are six common types of employees.

Elizabeth the Engaged—Composed of 35 percent of the survey respondents, “Elizabeths” are ideal employees. They are highly motivated, go above and beyond, and are adaptive to change.

Lucy the Laggard—This next largest group, at nineteen percent, is the most disengaged. These employees don’t hate their job and don’t plan to quit, but they tend to do their work half-heartedly and make careless mistakes.

Colin the Comfy—Those in this category, representing16 percent of employees, have no intention to leave their safe environment. Getting little sense of accomplishment from their work and rarely complaining, they simply put in their eight hours and go straight out the door.

Alison the Ambivalent—Twelve percent of the population are unhappy because they are often disconnected with the job or the organization.

Simon the Saboteur—Eleven percent of respondents tend to be very negative about the organization. They dislike changes and are quick to criticize because they feel like they are voiceless.

Peter the Promiscuous—This smallest group from the pool are positive and proud of their organization. But because they are usually motivated by money or personal development, it won't take much for them to leave.

This employee makeup may be surprising and you'll certainly think 'this is not us,' but according to the stats the majority of your employees are disengaged! Indeed, according to a Gallup poll (a survey of 3 million people), 71% of Americans are not engaged in their work and 16% are actively disengaged. Their disengagement comes from burn out, not feeling listened to, lack of recognition, fear, outside issues... or all sorts of things.

Disengagement is costly. As noted in the Journal of Applied Psychology "actively disengaged employees erode an organization's bottom line (analyzed by productivity, profitability, safety incidents, absenteeism, and earnings per share growth rate) while breaking the spirits of colleagues to the tune of $300 billion per year in the US.

I've always believed in pushing to engage employees as a primary and ongoing organizational mission. I'm also proposing to work the other side - to actively work to eliminate disengaged employees. Do you think your company is full of engaged Elizabeths? Do you have an Allison? Who is your Simon? What efforts do you take to spot and eliminate those cutting into your productivity and morale?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Know When to Fold 'Em

The vendor you've chosen seems slow on hitting the milestones you were counting on.... You hope they pull it together so you can hit your launch date. The new hire you've been interviewing said something to raise a flag... You convince yourself it was out of context and will work itself out when she starts. The incentive plan you envisioneered is rewarding the wrong behavior. You want to give it more time.

You have invested time and money into . You've made a commitment and you don't want to risk a diversion, even though it's irrational.

Exhibit A: In the book Sway, the Brafman brothers describe a Prof. Bazerman's negotiation class at Harvard Business School and his "$20 auction." Prof. Bazerman puts a $20 bill up for auction before his class. The first rule is that bids are to be made in $1 increments and the second rule is that the runner-up must still honor their bid. The auction inches up in price... $14, $15, $16 - until most students get nervous and drop out, leaving just two bidders. The students hanker down - they don't want to be the fool and are committed to paying not to lose. The price soars and always, the Prof. reports, gets to $20 or more. Student's continue bidding, $30, $40, and once getting as high as $204!

Harvard Business School is filled with smart people. Some as smart as you :-). But commitment and loss aversion pull us towards irrational behavior very frequently. You are committed to win (to succeed), and you'll do anything to avoid losing what you have already invested.

Change is a fact of startup life. The best intentioned plans deteriorate, the winds change direction. They change frequently, and often significantly. Business models are tossed and new ones formed. You get the wrong person or a function you don't need anymore. Cut it out! I know much of it's human nature. But think about your decision and state of affairs more often -and try to stop the bidding at $22. Lose the $2 instead of $102. Realize the psychological pull of your commitments and make the uncomfortable and rational corrections. Risk can be good.