Employee Engagement Awareness on the Rise

Is Employee Engagement Awareness on the Rise?

A review of current business articles highlighted a number of tweets, posts, and media articles over recent days and weeks that focus on employee engagement.

This comes on the back of the media hype over the increase in online consumer sales, with Australian retailers being told to lift their game and pass savings onto consumers and to actively compete with online offerings.

Disengagement versus Employee Engagement

The Human Resource Magazine recently noted that an "overwhelming 82 per cent of workers in Australia feel disengaged or disconnected at work" and that this "is costing Australian businesses billions of dollars in lost productivity". And even LeasePlan Australia, one of the country's leading vehicle leasing companies, noted in its latest "Roundtable" newsletter that worker disengagement amounts to a "global epidemic" and challenges its workers to become more engaged in service delivery.

These comments appear to be based on the results of a recent Gallup survey. Through its research over recent years, Gallup have developed a series of employee engagement indicators, linked to financial performance, to benchmark and grow employee engagement.

The Employee Engagement Challenge

The challenge is to ensure that employees are engaged with the business goals and strategies to a point where everything that they do positively contributes to successful customer outcomes. To implement employee engagement requires leadership from top management, effective communication and effective deployment of resources.

This article on the Sydney Morning Herald site questions whether managers really know what motivates their employees and suggests that employers need to treat their staff as their number one customer. It also quotes presenter and author, Ian Hutchinson as saying that "employees don't leave organisations, they leave leaders".

In the book "Employees First, Customers Second", Vineet Nayar (2010) (https://www.vineetnayar.com/) narrates the journey he took in turning around HCLT by increasing transparency across the company to engage employees and empower them to be the catalysts for change and to create value for customers, the company and ultimately themselves.

All of this points to a tangible disconnect between staff motivation and company strategy. How can staff deliver consistent, quality service if they are not motivated and have not committed to the company strategy? For effective employee engagement, a key question to ask is whether management teams are failing in defining and communicating the company direction to their staff, or whether the wrong staff have been deployed within the company.

Key Employee Engagement Questions

How does your company rate in the employee engagement stakes?
Is a lack of employee engagement impacting your workplace?
What's required to improve employee engagement?

Please share here, or leave a comment below -

Renovation - Home Improvement vs Business Improvement

As managers, when you are head-down, working in the business, day in, day out, it's hard to step back and evaluate what's needed to improve the performance of the business. It's also easy to take the view that because you know your business better than anyone else, that you are also the best person to evaluate what's best for your business.

I refer to this as "renovation blinker syndrome". Business owners and management teams often look at their business the same way and with the same bias as someone looking at their own house renovation project. You know what looks and works best, and where and in what order, to satisfy that mindset you've cultivated over many years. You may have tried different colour schemes, furniture layouts, etc. Often there are perfectly valid and practical reasons why one layout works better than another. But it takes a certain amount of daring, evaluation, expertise and external influence to achieve the best solution. What we think might work in our mind's eye is limited by the blinkers we wear.

Think about all those specialty trades people who you work with on a renovation. They review your ideas, advise you of options, massage you ideas, maybe even enhance them, then turn them into reality. Although some of us may try, we don't tell them how to do their job, instead we seek their advice and discuss the options. For most of us we just want the job done, but leaning on the expertise and resources of specialists and working with them to understand what's involved and any potential implications, will typically lead us to a better solution and a much greater appreciation of the end result.

When it comes to thinking about improvements and changes within the business, it's not so different. We may have an idea about a change or improvement, but we don't always have the the time or the experience or resources to take a step back and impartially evaluate the best options and implement a solution. It's easy to underestimate the inertia and conservatism that can exist within a company. Specific changes may have been tried before and failed. So why should you even consider those changes again?

I often meet with companies that have a perception that there's a need for improvement of a specific KPI or business process. Something in their business is not working and needs to change. But often they have a blinkered approach as to what specific change is required and how it needs to be implemented. That's not to say that it's all bad, given that the first step towards change is in recognising the need exists in the first place.

Business consultants are specialists whose assets are the depth of our experience and the number of specialty tools in our toolkits. We have the capacity to see beyond what you've always seen, using a fresh set of eyes with an independent, outside perspective.

A good renovation adds value, often improving the functionality of specific areas and the capacity for all areas to work well together. It does take time. It also takes effort and commitment. But we also recognise that it's worth some short term pain to achieve a better outcome.

This year, while you may be spending time renovating your house, how about renovating your business?

If you are not sure where to start, contact us today.

What are you biggest challenges in business improvement? Leave your comments below.

Advanced BPM Training

Recently I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the BP Group Certified Process Process Professional program in Brisbane. For me, this was the opportunity to follow up the three day Business Process Management Training I had previously attended in Melbourne.

As expected, there were a great group of attendees, from diverse backgrounds. Despite the various experiences, everyone present was tied to the one goal of improving business processes.
How to:
- increase revenue;
- reduce costs; and
- improve customer service.

Steve Towers demonstrated proven, practical methods and tools for advanced business process improvement and realising the above benefits by refocusing on successful customer outcomes (SCOs) using an "Outside In" strategy.

As one of the attendees in Brisbane has commented -
"I still find it incredible that in this conventional information and process rich world we live in that we can look at what we do in a slightly different but totally logical way and the picture changes (so) dramatically." Charles Bennett, Managing Partner & Project Director at IBS Publishing

Many companies say that they are "customer focused", but most fail to really put themselves in their customers' shoes and deliver real solutions for their customers' needs. This is where the methods and tools of the Certified Process Professional (CPP) Program can make a tangible difference to how you look at the business processes in your organisation.

If you are looking to improve your own professional skills in business process management and business process improvement, then I would recommend the Advanced Business Process Methods and Techniques of the Business Process Professional program by BP Group.

Stephen Nicholson
Certified Process Professional - Master

Search for other BPM and Outside In postings on this site.

Do businesses need to change their business process management strategy?

If you are unaware, there is a groundswell occurring in the business process management arena. Business analysts and business process management practitioners are leading us in a new direction - one of "customer centricity" or "outside-in".

Particularly since the 1980s, businesses have been bombarded with various methods of business process improvement and quality management, including Six Sigma, Total Quality Management (TQM), Business Process Re-engineering (BPR), Lean, Business Process Management (BPM), etc. And now we are presented with "Advanced BPM (ABPM)", "Outside-In" and "Customer Expectation Management (CEM)".

Do we really need yet another new strategy in business process management and performance improvement? Is this just another fad? Why should we adopt yet another strategy or set of tools to manage our businesses?

When we first tried to impose structure and strategy to our businesses and workflow, the world was a much simpler place. We focused on just getting the work done and doing as much of it as possible. The volume of output was often seen as the measure of business success.

Today, the difference is that we, as consumers, have changed. We now have more choice, are more informed and have greater expectations than ever before.

The way we conduct our business, along with the changes in customer expectations, are the reasons why we need to change the way we manage our business processes. We no longer have the luxury of just "telling them and they will buy". Companies are differentiating themselves by placing themselves in their customer's shoes. In doing so, they are opening their businesses to greater success through reductions in cost, increases in revenue, and improvements in customer service.

Does this mean that the old process management tools are no longer valid? Do we have to scrap them and start again? I don't think so. They still hold value and many remain very necessary within our businesses.

What we do need to review is the focus of our businesses, and therefore the tools we use in business process improvement.

What do you think?

When should an SME embrace BPM?

Small and medium enterprises rarely focus on formally establishing business processes or how they will be managed from the outset. After all, businesses are typically started through the enthusiasm and passion of one or two individuals - and that passion is purely focused on just "doing the business". Having (hopefully) identified a market need, the aim is to get the sales through the door and start making money. Isn't that how all businesses start off? Surely the rest will "take care of itself"?

While this approach may produce monetary results in the short term, and maybe even a profit, what happens as enthusiasm brings in more and more results? The business grows, more resources are required, and things start to become complicated. More staff are added to cover the growing workload. Profit becomes eroded. But everyone does what's necessary to "get the job done". The interesting thing about business growth is that it takes some time before individuals can afford to dedicate their time to specialist roles. So while employees may be employed in a specific role, very typically they are actually multi-tasking across multiple roles. And rarely does anyone stop long enough to focus the efforts of everyone and ensure that the product or service is being delivered to the customers consistently. How do you communicate the requirements of what needs to be delivered? How can results be delivered to customers consistently if the processes to produce them are inconsistent? How would you measure these inconsistencies anyway, if you haven't benchmarked what it is you are delivering?

But this doesn't just occur within small businesses. The reality is that these inconsistencies occur across organisations that employ 10, 50 and 500+ staff. And it is invariably evident within organisations that have been allowed to just evolve.

So at what point should processes, functions and strategic goals be aligned?

- As soon as the vision of the business is established and documented.

This is the point in time when all required roles within a business should be identified. Position descriptions (functions) for all roles should be documented. The overall business structure should also be documented in the form of an organisation chart.

With the strategic goals documented and functions defined, the processes of the business can also be documented - what needs to happen between receiving an order and delivering the goods/services? Importantly, all of this should be completed independently of whether individuals are available or have been identified to fulfill the roles of the business.

So why would a small business place any of its limited resources into documentation of the business? The biggest benefit in doing this is that it provides the basis of a plan for the business to move forward, and forms a tool for communicating this plan to others (new staff, clients, suppliers, etc). And no matter what label you attach to this exercise, the management of business processes starts with effective documentation of those processes. It is at this point when you start Business Process Management.

BPM in the Economic Climate of 2009

Given all the doom and gloom about the economy that is appearing in recent media stories, can companies maintain, let alone implement new systems for Business Process Management in 2009? How do organisations need to change their decision making and business strategy to ensure future success? What changes are needed in business fundamentals or business focus?

Increased external stresses to an organisation will increase pressure on management teams to implement changes within the organisation. These same external stresses can translate to increased performance expectations of individual employees. The challenge then is for the management team to manage the required organisational changes. The way in which an organisation manages change, and its capacity to maintain or expand its business processes will be a reflection of its level of maturity. There are a number of Capability Maturity Models that have been published. The Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute (SEI)[1. Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute website - http://www.sei.cmu.edu/cmmi/] defines 5 levels of levels of maturity within their Capability Maturity Model (CMM).

The SEI Capability Maturity Model (CMM) level definitions:

    1. Level 1 - Initial (ad-hoc processes)
    1. Level 2 - Repeatable (basic processes conceptualised and demonstrated)
    1. Level 3 - Defined (processes are documented, standardised and linked to goals)
    1. Level 4 - Managed (processes are quantified, measured and controlled)
    Level 5 - Optimising (continuous process improvement)

Although developed by the Software Engineering Institute, these levels of process maturity are broad enough to apply equally across all types of organisations within any industry. As Harmon (2007, p. xxxv)[2. Harmon, P. 2007, Business Process Change, Second edn, Morgan Kaufmann Publishers] notes, this model is in the same spirit of Total Quality Management (TQM) and leading companies today are focused on moving from from level 4 to level 5.

It's important to realise the distinction between those companies that have established, documented and linked procedures in place (Level 3, 'Defined' processes, or better), and those companies that have identified and completed the initial mapping of their procedures but are yet to refine them, master them and train their staff on the use of the procedures (Level 2, 'Repeatable' processes). This distinction sets apart companies that are capable of continuing their Business Process Management (BPM) procedures in times of stress. In times of stress (such as increased economic pressures), companies that are yet to reach a level of established procedures within their BPM system will typically drop their procedures, reverting back to the "old way" of doing things. This is because procedures that are still embryonic rely on individuals to constantly push them into day-to-day operations - they are not "endemic" to the organisation and are readily abandoned when performance expectations of individual employees increase.

Organisations that struggle to maintain their procedures and business systems in times of stress are typically characterised by situations within their organisation such as:

Organisations whose procedures and business systems continue to be used in times of stress are characterised where the organisation:

It could be argued that much of the current economic climate can be attributed to poor decisions made (particularly) by large organisations. Poor decision making may be a reflection of a lack of quality business data and failing to apply good risk analysis to the business data that is available. Putting risk analysis aside for a future post, often business data exists, but it is not collated, presented or communicated to decision makers. To effectively evaluate risk, reliable business data needs to be well presented and communicated effectively to the management team to give them the best opportunity of eliminating poor strategic decisions.

Business data is typically collected through the IT systems in an organisation. At a minimum, IT systems will be used to collate and present business data. Even in tough times, IT still has a role to play. However, I believe it is less likely to involve the implementation of new enterprise-wide (eg. ERP) systems, particularly where they have not been committed to in company budgets to date. Typically there will be a greater focus on analysis of the root cause of process failures leading to more targeted and potentially independent solutions to those failures.

An organisation with established processes that are quantified and have Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) established that are tied to strategic goals will find themselves in a much better position to weather the stresses applied to them from external sources. The requirement remains for people, processes and technology to work together and be aligned with overall business strategy. At what level of maturity an organisation sits, will greatly determine their success in hard economic times.

Bibliography -
SEI Capability Maturity Model
Wikipedia.org article
Portfolio, Programme & Project Management Maturity Model
UK Office of Government Commerce article

BPM Systems