Monthly Archives: June 2014

I Can’t Get No…


Is there a plausible reason why the role of satisfaction in engagement is so widely misunderstood? I’ll even accept an intelligent guess, because I just read yet another article that warns “satisfaction does not equal engagement”. This one even tricked me…pretty decent stuff then went right back into that rut toward the end of the article. Really not fair!

I didn’t realize there was that much confusion over the relationship satisfaction has with engagement, but apparently there’s a good deal of confusion because people keep writing about it. Are these cruise ship event coordinators and ex-cheerleaders who decided to give the engagement field a go or what?

“Satisfaction” is an important driver of engagement. But it is no more than a tactic to achieve a goal not a goal itself, and it is certainly not synonymous with engagement. Tactic: “Analyze factors contributing to satisfaction and dissatisfaction, and improve levels of satisfaction.” Which is the more sensible goal that particular tactic would support?
Goal #1: improve engagement levels; or
Goal #2: improve retention and morale (measure: attrition).

No doubt, you can be somewhat satisfied but still not engaged-it’s called “I’m happy as he%# because I’m getting paid all this money for doing nothing.” But that kind of “happy” is an instant-gratification, short-term fix. Thankfully the really, really happy low performer cannot last. For one, they should either get coached up or weeded out. But there’s an intrinsic reason too.

Level of contribution is also important in creating an environment conducive to engagement. “I’m contributing at a high level toward the company achieving its top goals and man, do I feel good about it!” Most of us have a deep need to contribute—to feel our work and our existence are both meaningful. Without that need being met we can only be somewhat satisfied. And we’ll certainly not be anywhere close to engaged without the contribution satisfier being met.

So, isn’t contribution a powerful driver of satisfaction level? (If / then)… contribution is a “bigger” factor in engagement than satisfaction is. So it should stand to reason that ensuring people are willing and able to fully contribute is more important than making sure they are “satisfied”. Conclusion: engagement is more about results than it is feel-good?

Satisfaction and contribution level are not different sides of a coin, they are two elements that, forged together, form a highly attractive yet extremely durable alloy called engagement.

We just need to understand the factors that produce the right conditions for forging those two elements together. We also need to understand the proper ratio between the two elements. And we’ve gone to a whole lot of effort to reach that understanding. Because this is certainly worth a whole lot of coin.


Greater Good II-Changing Landscape

Go Large” (Greater Good I) was my cut at defining the systemic relationship among organizations, culture and “me”. I wrote it before stumbling into a new world. There is a ton of new thinking and re-defining of performance excellence, CSR, sustainability, leadership, values, wellness, health care, work-life balance, spirituality, the meaning of life….whew. I can’t go after all those yet, not here!

Before going public with it, I shared an early draft with a friend. He mentioned two game changers, both of which were brand new to me: Blue Zones and Healthways. Interesting: “arguably no state is more invested in well-being than Iowa, with the Healthiest State Initiative (HSI).” Right in my own back yard and I didn’t know it!

Blue Zones – Origin
In 2004, Dan Buettner teamed up with National Geographic to identify pockets around the world where people lived longer. They found several areas where people reached age 100 ten times more often than in the United States. Scientists then went to each location to study what could explain the difference in longevity. All Blue Zones had nine common lifestyle characteristics.

Now, through The Blue Zone Project by Healthways, “a global well-being company”, Blue Zone community initiatives are popping up across the US. The Blue Zones Project “…is a community well-being improvement initiative designed to make healthy choices easier through permanent changes to environment, policy, and social networks.”

The real kicker to me is that the Blue Zones life prolonging characteristics include both physical and spiritual health factors. Purpose, values, connecting, social networks, sense of community lead to a better, longer life. Still, it looks like most of the Blue Zones / wellness work is locked in on the physical aspects. Is it because that other stuff is a little weirder therefore harder to embrace?

Healthways and Gallup conduct an annual analysis of well-being across the United States. In true Gallup “go large” fashion, more than 178,000 interviews are conducted on physical and emotional health, healthy behaviors, work environment, social and community factors, financial security, and access to necessities such as food, shelter and healthcare. And it is ongoing: “Gallup conducts 500 telephone interviews a day with Americans to gather their perceptions of well-being, for a resulting sample that represents an estimated 95 percent of all U.S. households.”

From the introduction pages of the 2013 Gallup / Healthways report The State of American Well-being:
“…individually, high well-being means a life well-lived—all the things that are important to each of us, what we think about, and how we experience our lives. In the aggregate, high well-being means healthier populations, more productive and profitable businesses, and more economically vibrant communities….Where a culture of well-being takes hold, positive health, cost, and productivity outcomes follow.”

“Well-being is about the interaction between physical health, finding your daily work and experiences fulfilling, having strong social relationships and access to the resources you need, feeling financially secure, and being a part of a true community.” (Tom Rath, Report intro)

The CSR -> CSV Connection
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) grew up into something much larger when nobody was looking. This “greater good” is not such a weird concept after all. It’s what CSR has evolved into, on steroids.

A great site for sustainability in general helped re-acquaint me with CSR, especially How the 4 stages of employee engagement ensure a bright future about the work of Coro Strandberg who says: “The ultimate vision…a blurring of the boundaries between employees working for the company and employees working for the community — where shared purpose becomes ‘one purpose.'”

Even Michael Porter and his Harvard crew are riding the crest of this New Wave. Regarding Creating Shared Value (CSV), from the website Harvard Business School Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness: “There are numerous ways in which addressing societal concerns can yield productivity benefits to a firm. Consider, for example, what happens when a firm invests in a wellness program. Society benefits because employee and their families become healthier, and the firm minimizes employee absences and lost productivity.” In other words (1) Social deficits and environmental impact create economic costs for companies; and (2) Community weaknesses affect company productivity.

Conclusion–the new bottom line is a trifecta: people, planet….and profit.

“Companies have overlooked opportunities to meet fundamental societal needs and misunderstood how societal harms and weaknesses affect value chains. Our field of vision has simply been too narrow.” (Michael Porter)
And when Porter talks about reinventing capitalism, you know something serious is going down!

Honorable mention: Indian Awakenings Rishikesh is in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas, on the sacred river Ganges. The Beatles went there in 1968 and hung out with a guru until they found enlightenment and inspiration for the White Album. But more importantly, Rishikesh has been a Hindu holy place for thousands of years. Now, westerners go to find their way. Or to seek inspiration if they are determined to write one of the classic albums of the era.

MORE REFERENCES (Sorry for the redundancies!)
I nearly didn’t include a full description of The Greater Good here. But it is what truly drives my personal passion for this project and it’s an underlying theme even though it isn’t directly explored in the workshops. My fear in including the Greater Good here was in giving the impression that Supercharger is some long-haired call to arms to change the world. It is a nuts and bolts approach to improving the bottom line and the material design and presentation is bottom line-driven. It just so happens that along the way the impacts reach far beyond the bottom line.
Then, new learning pushed the potential Greater Good impact even further. In finalizing the section, I came across the “new direction” of CSR, sustainability and CSV. See the last page for alphabet-soup decoding. And, thanks (once again!) to Steve who threw open a whole new door by explaining that health care is soon to be accountable for wellness—preventing health issues.

One Pond emphasizes balancing “people” and “process” focus. The same applies here: is there enough emphasis given to the soft side of wellness (values, purpose, spirituality) or is it all physical—diet, exercise, lifestyle? True, the heart is the motor and the body the vehicle. But the brain tells the heart to beat, and the spirit says how hard. How about “whole-person” wellness, connecting with your personal values and purpose, and understanding and reducing your stress levels? I love the Zen message …must have balance, grasshopper!
Steve has also turned me on to “Blue Zones” which, in turn, led me to Healthways. There is a movement welling up that will transform society and business that I must be part of!
What if influence of the organization and influence of the individual were exerted at maximum strength? Following the reference links is a deeper look at the dynamics and the macro benefits of purpose, values, and engagement. There are some great links at the end too!
Blue Zones
True Happiness Test 4 minutes to get your own True Happiness Grade and personalized recommendations.
USA Today Short Article with 9 points Blue Zone summary
Healthways Home
The State of American Well-being: full Gallup report to download.

“Arguably no state is more invested in well-being than Iowa, with the Healthiest State Initiative (HSI) More links for HIS:

The Only Sustainability Strategy That Matters

Based on a multitude of studies and hundreds of thousands of data points we know this much: people thrive in an environment that offers them a purpose to what they do, provides a sense of community and belonging, and a work relationships based on a strong sense of shared values. We’ve also learned a real magic trick–such a forward thinking company would realize incredibly enhanced improvements in every bottom line area that matters. It’s been proven over and over.

Maybe the real target for engagement isn’t in attaining marketplace supremacy, but in impacting the human condition. Proposed: focus on the human resource, which is the most basic input to the process, and pay absolute attention to the realization process (producing the company’s stuff). Repeatable economic success and therefore sustainability are outcomes…they just come along for the ride.

What if…..

Whole-Person or Crossover Engagement?

Whole-Person or Crossover Engagement, whatever you want to call it… a whole lot more opinions, questions and assumptions follow than data-driven answers. But I have a hunch that if the answers are out there, they may be vastly more important than getting a grip on “employee engagement”. Or, am I really on the fringe this time?

The engagement community’s focus is pretty much on “employee” engagement exclusively, maybe because that’s where the money is? I mentioned this to a colleague, and he validated that thought: “what other kind of engagement is there?” I rest my case.

There’s a good first question to get started: what other kinds of engagement that matters are there, besides “employee engagement”? Example: Gallup has done a good deal of research on student engagement. Others?

Is there such a thing as “community engagement” of citizens individually and collectively? What drives it? What does a person who is highly engaged in their community do differently? What are the impacts and manifestations of community disengagement and what are the disengagers?

Bigger questions…what is the potential impact of engagement-nurturing workplace practices on the “Greater Good”? What is the nature of the interdependence among the individual, organizations and society? Can an organization’s work with employee engagement and values-based leadership in the workplace have any kind of significant ripple effect on social well-being, both individually and as a whole?

Has there been any research conducted on the connection between workplace engagement and engagement outside of work? Is a highly engaged individual at work more likely to be a productive, well-adjusted member of society, even a better parent?

Assumptions to Validate or Refute
1. The elements that are conducive to a person being highly engaged with their employer and their work are not all that different than those that would tend to make them more likely to be highly engaged outside of work;
2. A person who is highly engaged in their work environment is likely to also be highly engaged outside of work, and vice versa. One begets the other, no matter which comes first;
3. A highly engaged person is likely to be a well-adjusted, contributing member of society, adhering to and being part of re-enforcing social norms. Therefore, higher levels of workplace engagement have a positive impact on social issues (there are even greater leaps of inference that I won’t get into quite yet-don’t want to push my luck too far);
4. A company that focuses on engineering a high-engagement environment realizes two levels of benefit: the often-correlated bottom-line impacts, and on a more macro scale enhanced image as well as impacting the health of their own local talent pool, both essential to sustainability;
5. Practitioners of engagement are capable of exerting a whole lot broader influence than we may realize.