Posts tagged employee engagement

New Year, New Development Goals

Traditionally the new year is a time for reflection and goal-setting for the future. You may have done this for yourself, it’s important to also plan for your company and your employees. A recent Gallup study showed that lack of career advancement opportunities was the most common reason for employee leaving organizations, being cited by 32 percent of respondents. So if you want to motivate engage and develop your top performers you must engage in good quality career development, the basis of which is a properly executed employee development plan.

Begin by considering your company’s goals for the new year. What training or skills would help you and your employees reach your business goals? To get started, design a development plan that outlines the goals you have in mind for your company and your employees—after all, goals clearly direct attention and effort toward action. Here are a few ways you can set development goals for yourself or your employees.

1.  Consider your business goals

Before you set objectives for employees, you should try to align their development plan with your company’s needs. Consider what your long and short-term business objectives are. Then identify the necessary skills, knowledge and competencies that support those objectives.

2. Talk to your employees

Don’t just presume you know your employees’ skill level and career aspirations. If possible, have a face-to-face discussion with each of your team members to get a better understanding of what their career goals are and how they think they can accomplish them. You should also talk about any challenges they’re having in their current position. Have your employees do a self-assessment of their work. In what areas do they struggle the most? Would they benefit from additional training or mentoring?

Some of your employees may already have a career path in mind. But many times, they don’t know how to get started. By talking to them, you can work together to figure out what role your business plays in this plan as well as what opportunities you can offer them.

3. Develop your training plan

Once you’ve looked at each of your employees’ abilities and experience, as well as your company’s needs, it’s time to decide exactly what skills each person needs to acquire. Be sure to your employees’ goals are specific and timely. It’s much more difficult to measure an employee’s progress when their objectives are vague or broad.

4. Create an action plan

Now that you know what the objectives are, it’s time to figure out how your employee will go about achieving them. Developmental programs can include a combination of activities such as formal training with an organization like NorthStar360, reading, working directly with subject matter experts, one-on-one coaching and mentoring. Once you’ve identified some specific learning opportunities, create a plan.

5. Apply the new skills in the workplace

You’re spending a considerable amount of time and possibly money on helping your employees improve their skills. To get your greatest possible return on investment, your employees need to be able to put those new skills to work in your company. Set up some opportunities where your employees can quickly apply the new skills to the job and get feedback. This will help them reinforce and refine their new skills. If you’re working directing with a training and development organization, focus on applying this new knowledge as a key part of the development plan. If they don’t use the new knowledge when it’s fresh, they’re likely to lose it.

Creating a development program not only helps you make your workforce more effective and knowledgeable, but it can also improve employee satisfaction. And when your employees are happy, they’re less likely to go looking for work elsewhere. Let’s keep that 32 percent engaged and high performing.


The High Cost of Doing Nothing: Lack of Supervisor Training Results in Lower Productivity, Profitability

June 13-14 Workshop Helps Managers to be More Effective, Engaging

Most business leaders understand that effective supervisors are essential for overall organizational success. However, in most organizations, there is a lack of urgency to improve and address training needs. Study after study confirms the direct link between development strategies such as training and coaching to improvements like productivity, profitability and employee retention. To summarize these studies, here are highlights from a recent Gallup study:

  • Poorly managed workgroups are an average 50 percent less productive and 44 percent less profitable than well-managed groups.
  • Ineffective or inconsistent leadership/management is the most common root cause of low morale.
  • The immediate supervisor the number one reason why employees leave

Often times, people who do well at their jobs are promoted to a management position in which they lack the skills and experience to manage. And these new managers may not even realize they are doing a poor job.  These bad bosses lead to financial losses for the company and employees with low morale.

The solution to creating effective front-line managers is providing training that is focused on self-awareness, management skills, and creating employee engagement. Managers who are trained for their position have a positive impact on things like employee performance, engagement, and retention. Up to 50 percent more productive according to Gallup!

NorthStar360 offers an opportunity for local businesses to provide training to their managers coming up June 13 & 14 in Munster, IN. This two-day seminar, “Mastering the Management Essentials” will help front-line managers and supervisors manage more effectively. It is an excellent seminar for both new and seasoned supervisors.

The program runs from 8:30am to 4:30pm both days. Registration for the 2-day session includes all materials, customized action plan, two breakfasts and one lunch.

For additional information, or to register, please contact NorthStar360 at (219) 864-1576, or visit

10 Ways to Connect and Mobilize Your Team

A leader values and engages others.

A leader takes the time to know people beyond job titles and responsibilities. They understand their strengths and weaknesses. They recognize what motivates their people. They say thank you!

A leader understands that in order for the team to perform most effectively, everyone must connect and engage. There are lots of things a leader should do, so we’ve compiled our Top 10 list of ways you can connect and mobilize your team.

  1. Highlight need – explain why things can’t go on as they are.
  2. Make them know they matter – show how they can help.
  3. Include everyone in crafting vision – engage people if you expect them to be engaged.
  4. Create channels for service – build organizational structure.
  5. Call people to rise up – great work isn’t convenient. Disrupt established patterns.
  6. Honor effort – express gratitude along the way.
  7. Rotate tasks and offer training.
  8. Track results – tell everyone what’s getting done.
  9. Celebrate success – dance because you’re making a difference.
  10. Identify and leverage forward looking leaders.

Keeping Your Talent in Your Company

You’ve spent significant time and money hiring and training good employees. Now how do you keep them? If you are happy to have them, your competition would be too, especially since you made the initial and often costly investments of taking them from the “maybe” group to the “proven” stage.

Before you look up to see your treasured performer standing in front of you with resignation in hand you may want to ask yourself a few serious questions.

1. Would I want to work for me?
2. Do my employees feel appreciated?
3. Am I paying enough?
4. Do the people here feel they are part of a community?
5. Do my people feel they make a difference?
6. Are my employees proud to be part of my organization?
7. Would I want to work in this environment?
8. Does everyone here believe they have a future?
9. What am I not seeing?
10.Is the existing orientation process working?

People that are thrown into unfamiliar situations without clear expectations and understanding may never even begin the process of becoming part of your company.

Many times we fall into the rut of thinking that the way things worked yesterday will be fine for tomorrow. Meanwhile the people that want to take our spot in the marketplace are searching high and low for that added edge. Keeping the people we need to perform our tasks at maximum efficiency may be as easy as asking ourselves, “What would keep me here?”

Employee Engagement: Supporting Employee Development

Employee engagement affects every corner of your organization, from productivity and efficiency to quality and customer service. When you have engaged employees, it shows! And, unfortunately the opposite is true for disengaged employees. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. employees are not fully engaged in their work and are less productive as a result, according to a recent Towers Watson survey. Let’s put your organization in the engaged side of that equation.

As part four of this series exploring Employee Engagement, we are going to review the steps an organization can take to support employee development. Once your organization has assessed your environment, drafted a plan, created an environment that drives engagement, it’s time to support employee development.

One strategy to support employee development and create engagement is through empowered leadership. In traditional organizations, managers set goals, make decisions, establish and manage the budget, set policies, and control the flow of information. In these organizations, managers are the thinkers and planners and employees are merely doers. On the part of the employees, this sets up an attitude of compliance. People’s hearts are not in their work and they learn to get by, do the minimum required and watch the clock.

Within a highly engaged organization, leaders recognize the value and potential of their employees and want to get the most possible from them, so they create a culture and organizational design in which people participate in setting goals, making decisions and solving problems. Employees go way beyond compliance to commitment in their motivation. They want to be part of the organization and are excited to contribute to its success and improvement.

What would happen if your employees truly felt and acted like partners in the business? What if they saw it as their business instead of your business? Empowered leadership is the most important factor to make this happen. Transitioning your business from Traditional Management to Empowering Leadership can happen gradually. Moving from Directing and Doing to Developing and Leading can happen by reframing everyday leadership opportunities, such as the following examples:

1. Solving the problem 1. Facilitating problem solving
2. Doing it yourself 2. Effective delegation
3. Over-directing and Micro-managing 3. Helping others learn from mistakes
4. Arbitrarily managing goals 4. Providing leadership for goal setting
5. Being the only expert 5. Developing technical confidence
6. Being the quality judge and jury 6. Being a quality coach
7. Playing the “God” role 7. Supporting as a helpful resource
8. Protecting turf 8. Bridging barriers
9. Over-dependence on detailed policies 9. Being touch and clear about a few directives and principles

Remember, we’re focusing on small changes which can yield big results. So, keep your organization moving forward. And stay tuned for next month’s newsletter as we delve into the next step in creating an environment for employee engagement: Coaching Employees.

Employee Engagement: Crafting a Working Environment

Employee engagement affects every corner of your organization, from productivity and efficiency to quality and customer service. When you have engaged employees, it shows! And, unfortunately the opposite is true for disengaged employees. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. employees are not fully engaged in their work and are less productive as a result, according to a recent Towers Watson survey. Let’s put your organization in the engaged side of that equation.

As part three of this series exploring Employee Engagement, we are going to review the steps an organization can take to craft their work environment. Once your organization has assessed your environment and drafted a plan, its time to work on the environment itself.

Crafting a working environment that drives engagement is based on trust specifically that you have faith in your employees’ integrity, competence and show compassion. Trust is exhibited in your verbal communication, body language and ability to listen. It can be tougher than you’d think.

One strategy we can use immediately to create trust in the workplace is the way we handle feedback. It is such a great opportunity for us to learn and improve, yet often times our immediate knee-jerk reaction is defensive. Here are five strategies we can use to better handle feedback, and develop trust in our work environment.

  1. Recognize feedback is an opportunity to improve
  2. Listen and try not to interrupt
  3. Ask for clarification and examples to help you understand what you are hearing
  4. Look for positives as well as negatives
  5. Find ways to implement the feedback

Handling feedback in a positive manner is one way you can build trust as a leader in your organization. Remember, we’re focusing on small changes which can yield big results. So, keep your organization moving forward. And stay tuned for next month’s newsletter as we delve into the next step in creating an environment for employee engagement: Supporting Employee Development.

Employee Engagement: Developing a Plan

Employee engagement (or lack there of) is a growing concern for many business owners and managers. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. employees are not fully engaged in their work and are less productive as a result, according to a recent Towers Watson survey. Owners and managers have a reason for concern.

As part two of this series exploring Employee Engagement, we are going to review the steps an organization can take to improve employee engagement in their workplace, starting with developing a plan. This initiative starts from the ground up as employees alone do not drive engagement. The entire organization, its managers and its employees comprise the level of engagement. Once you have your managers on board, its time to assess your needs and create a plan. Assessment can take many forms and involves a research methodology to gather valuable information about your organization. Many times a company will propose a survey, interviews or focus group methods. Implementing this first step the right way is essential to a successful plan. If you don’t fully understand the issues and problems, your plan will “miss the boat” per se. Having a partner like NorthStar360 or another professional can ensure your assessment is valid and unbiased.

After you have received the data from the assessment, you can begin to plan. How can you help solve some issues that are important to your employees? How you align these solutions with the organizational mission and goals? Action planning demands a multi-step, concentrated, ongoing process based on management commitment, time and accountability. No single strategy or process will be right for every company. A structured approach built with an understanding of the specific needs of the organization is essential for success. Again, having a partner with expertise and an outside perspective will be invaluable in this process.

Remember, even small changes can yield big results. Take baby steps, just keep moving forward. And stay tuned for next month’s newsletter as we delve into the next step in creating an environment for employee engagement: Crafting a Working Environment.

Employee Engagement: Part One of a Five Part Series

Perhaps the companies of old were on to something; long live the life long employee. Employee engagement is not a new buzz word or an old adage that is being revisited. Simply stated it is an approach to business and employees that is producing exceptional results. Unfortunately, a recent Towers Watson survey indicated that nearly two–thirds of U.S. employees are not fully engaged in their work and are less productive as a result.

This initiative starts from the ground up as employees alone do not drive engagement. The entire organization, its managers and its employees comprise the level of engagement. For engagement to truly “work” employees must be happy and productive. That’s a tall order. Managers must communicate and lead their employees toward the goals of the organization.

Research has shown that managers do not feel communication is a job responsibility, but this is not the case. Contrarily, organizations and leaders must identify clear visions and goals. They need to spearhead and encourage the communication of this vision throughout the company. And, simply having a mission statement or employee program does not fulfill this requirement. Proper training, marketing and support are mandatory for engagement to thrive in any corporate culture.

To address the many needs of employee engagement, NorthStar360 has developed a hands-on, 5-pronged approach to addressing each of the involved aspects:

1. Developing the Plan

2. Crafting a Working Environment

3. Supporting Employee Development

4. Coaching Employees

5. Maintaining Engagement

In upcoming newsletters and blog posts, we will outline each step in additional detail, a how-to guide for employers if you will. These steps together develop a more engaged, productive, happy and committed employee (and supervisor!). Stay tuned and salivating for the March NorthStar360 newsletter. And if you just can’t wait, contact us today for a custom-designed program for your organization. ­­­­

Is Your Workplace Elf-Friendly? 10 Reasons Why Employees Are Happy and Engaged in an Elf-Friendly Workplace

Think that Santa’s elves are happy on the job? I do. And, I think that I know why, too. Some universal principles about how to create happy employees at work are operating on full throttle at the North Pole. Workplaces that emulate Santa’s workshop resonate with excitement, engagement, positive employee morale, and employee motivation.

Wouldn’t you like to create a workplace where employees feel happy about showing up in the morning? You can. Just create a workplace that is elf-friendly. Guaranteed great for making employees happy, too.

Why Elves Are Happy at Work

Elves are happy at work. At Santa’s workshop at the North Pole, people focus on creating a work culture that is elf-friendly, fun, and engaging. Here’s what they do to make elves happy at work; you can, too.

Santa’s elves have a purpose bigger than themselves. What’s not to like about providing all of the little boys and girls in the world with exactly what they want for a Merry Christmas? Bringing joy through your work, knowing that you are participating in an activity that is bigger than your small world, doing work that impacts millions in a positive way… Again, what’s not to like?

Elves have a customer intelligence gathering system that is admired and envied world-wide. How do elves know what their customers want? They ask them. See all of the Santas gathered in malls talking with customers? They’re listening to their customers and keeping track of exactly what they want. They supplement their mall intelligence gathering by reading letters to Santa and have a hundred other ways to stay close with their customers.

Ever written to the North Poll or to Santa? Thanks to the postal service, Santa and the elves got your letter – and you likely received a response. Santa’s Workshop and its elves are a customer facing and integrated organization that has no objective other than producing products that their customers need, want, and revel in. They have, not just happy customers, their customers are delighted and become word of mouth (WOM) evangelists.

Elves feel totally needed and secure in their employment. Elves have lots of customer orders – more than they can fill, for all of the good girls and boys. Since there are definitely more good girls and boys than bad, elves know that they will never run out of work. Job security is a desirable condition to create happy employees. Feelings of job security allow the energy of the elves to be invested in building, creating, sharing, and producing a helpful, supportive, happy work environment. No bad energy looms where elves do their jobs.

Elves have both a known mission and a vision. Elves know that they must meet the goal of presents delivered on Christmas. They must do whatever it takes to make that delivery happen. So, elves have a clear mission that guides their daily work: a mission based on customer feedback so integrated that it unconsciously shapes the mission. Yet elves are driven by their overall vision, too: to bring joy to all of the girls and boys – joy that stretches all year round. This vision is a higher calling that chills and thrills and keeps elves moving on the most cold and blizzardy winter day.

Elves are clear about the impact of their work. They know that they affect the lives of boys and girls worldwide. Not just during the holiday season, the impact of their gifts is felt all year long. Boys and girls play with toys and cherish memories of holidays with family and friends all year. And, pictures from the Christmas camera bring back moments that they might otherwise have forgotten. Happy employees know about the impact of their work on the lives of customers and coworkers. Elves know that they make a difference in millions of lives. That’s why elves hop out of bed smiling every day. They sing a variation of, “hey-ho, hey-ho, it’s off to work we go.”

The guy who manages the elves (the boss) is accessible, easy-to-talk-with, participative, fair, and fun. Santa’s merry laughter envelopes the workshop in an environment of joy. He doesn’t play favorites because every elf matters to get the work done. Every elf idea is seriously considered because the goal is happy children, not stoking the boss’s ego nor feeding his need to control.

Credit? Who needs credit? All of the elves work together, under Santa’s leadership, to pump out the toys for children. Elves are smart; they know what they’re doing. Santa knows that the best way to lead elves is with gentle encouragement. They don’t need micromanaging or to be told how to do their work.

Elves receive perks that make them feel cherished and needed. Mrs. Claus is famous for her cookies that she shares with joy in the workshop. Hanging out with reindeers, particularly a special reindeer with a bright red, glowing nose, is another opportunity not shared by many employees. And, the outfits. Well, let’s just say that the elf costumes, supplied by Santa, bring a smile to every child’s (and elf’s) face.

Elves have the opportunity to continue to develop their skills and abilities. Not only do elves learn about all of the new technology that affects new toys in the off-season, they cross train on the job every day. They can make a whole product or cooperate with other elves to produce a gift for a child. Promotions are not often available in Santa’s Workshop where a flat hierarchy rules the day. But, training, changed work responsibilities, and lateral moves are common, so elves can increase their skills and value.

Combating the boredom so often found in repetitive work is easy when elves have the opportunity to do different tasks each day. Staying up-to-date on innovations in reindeer food, the technology that powers the North Pole village, and the interworkings of Santa’s sleigh, rule the day. When engaged elves are learning, and keeping their skills up-to-the-minute, the future for Santa, the elves, and the holiday traditions for little children and big children worldwide, is secure for generations to come.

Trust and respect permeate the work environment where elves spend their day. Elves feel intrinsically valued. In Santa’s Workshop, the behavior and interaction of the boss and coworkers broadcasts a message of trust, respect, belief in, and value. Not spoken about very often, actions form the message elves believe in. Santa’s actions speak so loudly that he rarely needs to say anything about what he believes. Elves know.

Elves receive lots of positive feedback and recognition. Not only do elves receive droves of thank you letters from happy children everywhere, they receive positive feedback from Santa every day. In a work environment in which every employee is happy, recognized, and the recipient of positive feedback, there is more positive feedback available to share. Elves have no need to compete for positive attention, in a work environment that provides lots. So, happy employees recognize their coworkers and help them feel appreciated. This is why elves are almost always smiling.

Not the only factors that make elves happy at work, these are the basics, though, for your success with employees. If you’ve implemented these factors that make elves happy at work every day in your workplace, you’ve gone a long way toward creating an employee-friendly culture. Elves know.

By Susan M. Heathfield, Guide

Change: How to Effectively Manage It?

Change can be scary. There’s no doubt about it. And, as leaders, it’s our duty to help our organizations navigate change seamlessly. Sometimes this voyage may seem like a trip down The Nile. Change can evoke anxiety, stress and fear for our employees.  Fortunately, it is possible to reduce employee stress (and the turnover that comes along with it) with effective change management.  Being an effective leader means managing change by understanding what factors influence behavior, how to address employee concerns and manage resistance. Addressing employee concerns can help reduce turnover and encourage engagement. The Society for Resource Management currently estimates that replacing an IT employee costs $80,000.  They also previously estimated that it costs $3,500 to replace each employee earning $8.00 an hour; another incentive to better manage change at our organizations. So, what can we do? Where do we start?

As leaders the area that can seem most intimidating is receiving resistance to change from staff. The best leaders learn resilience by focusing on areas they are able to control.  Even in the midst of change, people are able to control emotional responses, influence the change and take care of themselves. People practice resilience when they:

•  Assess the situation at hand

•  Consider solutions and actions

•  Select the best choice

•  Take action

•  Learn what does and does not work

•  Modify actions or behaviors to achieve results

Any leaders who feel that they react out of resistance, rather than acting with resilience, can benefit from creating a personal action plan.  By enhancing their change management skills, leaders will be equipped to address problems and manage resistant employees.

Observe reactions to change.  Leaders need to link organizational goals to their employees’ drives, needs and wants. This starts with observation.   Observing and assessing personal and employee responses to change, provides leaders with the opportunities to address problems and find appropriate solutions, once assessments are made, problems must be addressed at the process and behavioral levels.

Clear and constant communication is essential to managing resistance at the process level.  Various studies confirm that most failed changes are directly related to poor management and communication.  Successful leaders understand that effective communication reduces resistance and motivates change.  Articulate a clear vision of the future:  Engage employees by explaining how change is necessary for long-term company success.

Identify goals for change and explain why the change must happen:  Outline how change will help achieve specific goals. Communicate clearly about issues and respect dissenting opinions:  Allow employees to voice their opinions, even if they are negative.  They will be more open to change if they feel their opinions are heard.

Companies that invest in change management programs, (such as the Change Management workshop offered by NorthStar360) are statistically more successful than companies that do not. When all is said and done, effective change requires effective change management.  Smoothly implemented organizational change reduces employee stress which saves money by reducing turnover and increasing productivity.  Managing change effectively takes work, but the long-term fiscal and emotional payoff is worth it.