Thursday, 31 January 2013

Smiling Sunny Faces

Today I am writing this post while enjoying the sunlight coming through the window into the living room, making it warmer and shining.

With that, I recall a research project conducted by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), 'The Engaging Manager' (2009) aimed at identifying the behaviours and competences of engaging managers.

Among the varying tools used by the researchers, there were pictures: participants were asked to draw a picture that represented how they saw an engaging manager. Several themes emerged however, the most popular picture of all, was a smiling sunny face. This represented the positive impact of engaging managers and their warm, motivating approach.

I read the report with great deal of interest and I believe it could be considered a good source of reference for any manager who would like to engage with their staff.

While as always I encourage you to enjoy the original source, below I report some of the findings highlighted by the IES study:

  • SELF-AWARENESS: Engaging managers in general have high level of self-awareness. They learn from their mistakes, consciously adopting engaging behaviours, modify how they do things and become more aware of themselves and their impact on others.

  • COMMUNICATION: Effective listening as well as explaining is an essential feature of engaging management. They seeks the views of their teams, involve them in decision-making and explain things in a straightforward, open and clear way.

  • TIME SPENT ON INTERACTING WITH OTHERS: Engaging managers do not allow workload pressures to get in the way of the day-to-day interaction. They spend considerable amount of time interacting with others.

  • EMPATHY AND UNDERSTANDING: Engaging managers are empathetic and understand their team members as individuals. This allow them to allocate work, support the team and develop people appropriately. Also, they are good at helping their team to become more self-aware themselves. Their teams appreciate them for being treated with respect and recognition, being praised and listened to.

  • PERFORMANCE FOCUSED: Engaging managers have a performance focus, manage high-achieving teams and they are quick at tackle poor performance or difficult individuals. They are clear about expected standards, behaviours and objectives, and monitor team achievements closely.

  • WHEN BREAKING BAD NEWS: Engaging managers set it into context, explain why it has to be done, for the good of the organisation. They do this with honesty and integrity, allowing people to be better able to cope with and understand any changes that happen, even those that are not at their advantage.

  • IN-DEPTH KNOWLEDGE OF THE ORGANISATION: Engaging managers have an in-depth knowledge of their organisation and how their role fits into the bigger picture. Also, they tend to be extensive internal networkers.

  • MAKING JOBS INTERESTING: Engaging managers try to make jobs interesting and enjoyable, although they also expect their teams to tackle unpopular tasks when necessary. However, they themselves are willing to help and see themselves as part of the team as well as its manager.

The report distills much more valuable information and it also describes the elements of disengaging behaviours. Indeed, it is important not only to adopt positive approaches but also to avoid the negative, disruptive ones in order to engage.

As the IES study highlights, for people and organisations to shine, engaging managers – SMILING SUNNY FACES - are key.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Making engagement sustainable in the workplace: my article for simply-communicate

Employee engagement is likely to be unsustainable unless it goes hand in hand with employee well-being”

These marginalia are about my article published by simply-communicate today.

The article relates to the CIPD report, 'Managing for sustainable employee engagement. Developing a behavioural framework' that was published in December 2012.

The premise of the CIPD study is that employee engagement can be difficult to sustain in today's working life when change is a constant and the report focuses on understanding how to engage employees but in a sustainable and well-being-focused way.

According to the study, there is the need for managers to focus on ensuring that the real, 'emotional engagement' is created and sustained in their employees and the report presents a framework of five competencies that managers should adopt for enhancing and managing both employee well-being and employee engagement.

The research underpinning the study was conducted by Affinity Health at Work.

Affinity Health at Work's Emma Donaldson-Feilder, has given me lots of valuable information about the findings from the study.

In the article you will read Emma's answers to my questions and her valuable thoughts based on the research. Additionally, you will be given the link to the official CIPD report and guidance leaflet.

I do hope that you will enjoy the article and find it in some way useful and helpful. 

I personally found the research very interesting and its core messages very important. Indeed, I would encourage you to read it!

Finally, I would like to thank simply-communicate for publishing my article, Affinity Health at Work for conducting the research, Emma for her availability and kindness in sharing her thoughts with me and the CIPD for publishing the valuable report. 

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Turning Hierarchy Upside Down – Marginalia for the 'Diary of an internal communicator'

Today's post is about 'The CEO: Chief Engagement Officer. Turning Hierarchy Upside Down', book written by John Smythe in 2007.

I read this book twice while studying on the PG Cert in Internal Communication at The PR Academy last year.

In March 2013, a new book by John Smythe – 'Velvet Revolution at Work' - will be available to the public. While waiting for it to be found in bookshops I thought to dedicate my marginalia to the author's previous work, 'The CEO: Chief Engagement Officer'.

However, today I am very happy to write down my notes for the 'Diary of an internal communicator' – the blog of Rachel Miller, internal communicator and social media strategist, co-founder of the IC Crowd.

My review on John Smythe's book has just been published in Rachel blog. I hope you will enjoy it!

“Positive engagement is marked by creative energy and personal ownership”
(John Smythe)

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Recasting the Role of the CEO

It takes courage to walk a different path, but when you do, you discover that you are not alone; there are many who wish to walk with you”.
(Vineet Nayar)

Today's post is about the book “Employees First, Customers Second. Turning Conventional Management Upside Down” by Vineet Nayar.

The book is very inspirational and give a real sense of the meaning of giving voice to employees, listening to them and empowering them. Ultimately - the book elucidates - individuals, the whole organisation and customers are all winners.

The author describes the radical transformation that HCLT undertook since 2005, a time when they were struggling to keep up with its rivals and when he became CEO of the company.

The traditional management systems, practices and processes were renowned in a radical way and five years later HCLT became one of the most influential IT companies in the world.

This was created without major initiatives or massive restructuring but with relatively simple catalysts that built a culture of trust, transparency, empowerment, collective wisdom and accountability within the organisation.

People at the 'value zone' were enabled to excel, helped discover their own wisdom and engage themselves entirely in their work.

The below marginalia are extracted from Chapter: 'Recasting the Role of the CEO'.

In this chapter the author describes some of the small-scale catalysts that were implemented at HCLT for recasting the role of the CEO (and the idea that he would take responsibility and decisions for everything). 

The implementation of the small scale catalysts resulted in great and positive results, by facilitating responsibility, ideas and actions throughout the organisation:

This situation had to change. Rather than hide my struggles or pretend I had the answers, why not seek help from the organisation?

We created a new section within U&I portal called My Problems. It was about just that – my problems, the questions that I, as CEO, could not answer or solve myself. I started posting questions that I was struggling with, and people began to send me answers. I got an incredibly large number of responses. It was as if everyone in the organisation had an opinion on the topic and was only too willing to help out their CEO.

We heard many interesting points, ideas, and suggested remedies that helped me understand the problem better and develop my thinking.”

The author also describes the back-and-forth engagement with the contributors as they asked each others questions such as:

  • What is the fundamental nature of the problem?
  • How does it really affect us?
  • Who is the right person or team to think more about this?
  • What timeline makes sense?
  • How will we evaluate the process and the solution?

Vinnet Nayar acknowledges that these conversations started to shift the responsibility of ideas and actions that could create change away from himself to other people throughout the organisation.

It became a dialogue rather than a monologue...the goal was to get the whole company talking and listening to one another.

Added to 'my problems', the company also introduced virtual 'communities of passion' (called 'Employee First Councils) that focused specifically in business-related passions (e.g. a particular technology). 

These communities were created based on the idea that: Only passion makes people jump out of bed in the morning looking forward to the work of the day. Only passion pushes them try things that may be difficult or seem impossible. Only passion makes them take on responsibilities or accept tasks that are not strictly specified in a contract document”.

In fact, employees participating in these communities of passion could bring their whole persona, give their own thoughts, generate all kinds of ideas.

People were so engaged that these groups became a new way to spread learning throughout the organisation and bring the whole person into the culture of the company. 

The community participation helped us increase awareness, create a sense of urgency, encourage new thought and prevent us from being blindsided by change...As CEO, I am just one of the many voices in the conversation.

Finally, the author summarises what he means for 'recasting the role of the CEO' and why he believes in it:

I deeply believe that a good deal of responsibility for managing the company must be transferred to employees, for three reasons:
  1. Concentrating power in the office of the CEO drains power away from the value zone. The office of the CEO is always too far away from the value zone to really understand the zone – especially in services and knowledge economy companies.
  1. The speed of thought, of change and of implementation gets suffocated by too much hierarchy. The only way to remove hierarchy in the organisation is to recast the role of CEO as one who asks more questions than he or she answers.
  1. The complexity of the knowledge and service economies is so great that it is impossible for any individual, CEO or company unit, to possess all the knowledge. The CEO must be in the business of enabling the people who do have the knowledge to do what they are good at, rather than taking decisions on his or her own, using incomplete, imperfect and probably outdated knowledge.”

I have concluded that when people feel passion and responsibility for what they do, not only can they transform a company, they can also transform themselves.”
(Vineet Nayar)

Saturday, 12 January 2013


Today's post is about the SimplyTV's edition run yesterday - Friday 11th January - by simply-communicate.

Ten professionals from the internal communication (IC) and employee engagement disciplines were interviewed during the show. Among the main topics, there were: the importance of fostering engagement in the workplace, embracing digital communications, the state of the IC industry and the raising of young talents in internal communications.

The discussions were very interesting. I particularly liked the fact that the environment was very diverse. In fact, many people with different expertise and background took part in it. All of them, each with their own area of experience, brought some valuable insight in to the conversation. Also it was particularly appreciated exploring the link between employee engagement and the role of internal communication in that respect.

Below are some of the marginalia that I wrote down during the show:

David MacLeod and Nita Clarke: Engage for Success – discussing the new Engage For Success website and the role that employee engagement will play inside the enterprise in 2013

Engaging for Success, the 2009 report for the UK government, was to try to bring some sort of insight to the employee engagement topic. Then we wanted to bring this forward, putting the 'thinking' about engagement and this is the reason for the Engage for Success movement: shining light on good practice, raising the profile of the topic...
The way we do that and the way we want to continue doing it is throughout a voluntary movement...

Every week throughout the website, new practice and case studies are shared, practitioners participate to events, people share their challenges...the movement is moving.

Can internal communication contribute to it? Yes, internal communication is central to this. Any best practice that worked in organisations should be shared. Get involved with your ideas...this is a movement that want to stimulate the thinking about engagement and internal communication has a lot to offer.

How can internal communication support line managers in engaging with their people? Line managers are critical to engagement, the relationship with the manager is at the heart of engagement. The role of communication is make sure that there is 'voice'... giving VOICE to employees throughout listening and also social media and new technologies. There is a huge potential for HR and internal communicators to make sure that managers have the right skills. Communicators have a critical role to make sure that people are heard, motivated and enthused.

Make the best of the potential that people can bring in and take it seriously...engaging the staff”.

The IC Crowd: Rachel Miller, Jenni Wheller and Dana Leeson - discussing how the IC Crowd is successfully connecting the internal communications community

The IC Crowd, the internal communication community, is predominantly on twitter and has now over a thousand of followers.
Its aim is to gather all the internal communicators together in one place, 'sharing opinions' among internal communication practitioners, asking questions, getting advice, suggestions...being part of the conversation.

The IC Crowd also gather the crowd in person through events (e.g. the Christmas event in London) where people can ask questions, discuss topics and share opinions face-to-face.

During the 'unconference', which is a conference without agenda, practitioners are gather together within a room. The practitioner comes along and says what topic or issue he/she would like to discuss during the event, what is important to him/her”.

VMA: Michelle Morgan, Andrew Holland and Tony Stewart – discussing the findings of their annual Professional Development in Internal Communications's survey

From the latest survey it emerged that the internal communication function still needs to be recognised and understood for the value it has to offer. It still needs to demonstrate it.
Practitioners seem to feel that, in these difficult economic times, with financial crises, IC needs to justify its worth and existence more and more.

In terms of representation at board level, only 5 percent of the practitioners who took part in the last survey said they had a board member representing internal communication.

However, it is also true that more seniors have started to have a better understanding of the internal communication function. More heads for example have seen an increase. With this it has also derived greater expectation, which requires the function to be more strategic.

And, in terms of future trends, there is more talent around the table and the future is promising.
In terms skills, added to the communication expertise, employers require good business knowledge from the IC function.

How do you get the best learning? How do you develop your skills? On the internal communication job itself or throughout internal communications courses? Both. It has to be a mix. Training helps you to work on the competencies and knowledge needed to do the job. However, there is not replacement to the experience.

Self-awareness: the internal communicator has to be self-aware and responsible of his/her development and profession. The discipline is constantly changing and practitioners need to be able to adapt”.

Internal communicators practitioners need to combine the wisdom with the tools

IoIC's 30 Under 30 initiative: Suzanne Peck and Helen Deverell - IoIC President and Editor at Sequel Group - discussing the "30 Under 30" initiative which aims to shine the spotlight on young internal communicators.

The idea of the initiative came from the will of doing something of tangible for young people who wanted a career in internal communication.
It is an initiative that embraces the diversity of young internal communicators talents, people under 30...
The ones who made it were the ones who proved to make a difference in the industry.
Age does not matter. The initiative did not want to be elitist but a way for the best of the youngest generation to be listen to, and recognised for their achievements within the industry.”

However, age a part: (some final comments)

It is what you have inside yourself”

The most important thing is having passion since the discipline needs lots of learning”...“Emotional commitment”...

Learning from challenging yourself, learning from people around you, focus on development

Do not be afraid of trying (e.g. with internal social media)...Learn and grow: it is how you learn, how you grow, how you challenge yourself that can help you make a difference

You can impact someone's life, this is what I love of internal communication...the emotional connections”

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Employee Engagement – Exploring the theory

This post is inspired by the book 'Exploring Internal Communication. Towards Informed Employee Voice' edited by Kevin Ruck. I do like this book. It reports all the latest developments of theories and concepts regarding employee engagement and internal communications.

With these marginalia I would like to bring you back to the origins of the term 'employee engagement'. In fact, 'employee engagement' is a term which is now widely used but, where does it come from? I believe it is important to look back in order to better understand the present.
The below notes are extrapolated from the chapter 'Internal Communication and Employee Engagement Theories':
It began in the 1990s with academic work on personal engagement. The decade was characterised by the beginnings of practitioner interest and the term employee engagement came into use, widely credited as being coined by consultancy Gallup in 1999.
In 1990-92, Kahn, in his original study that outlines the basis for employee engagement, reported a psychological perspective of engagement: 'in engagement, people employ and express themselves physically, cognitively and emotionally during role performance'. Kahn reiterated the determinants of engagement: meaningfulness, safety and availability and his work emphasised that engagement is dynamic and subject to fluctuation.
During the wave 2000-2005, with the emergence of the positive psychology movement, there was a switched focus from negative consequences of attitude to work (e.g. burnout) to positive drivers, like engagement.
In 2002, Luthans and Peterson argued that manager self-efficacy is a significant component of engagement 'because as the manager's employees become more engaged (cognitively and emotionally) in their work, the manager acquires confidence and belief in her/his abilities to create and build an engaged team successfully'. This emphasised the importance of creating an environment that enables employees to become engaged.
In 2004, Robinson at al. (Robinson, Perryman and Hayday) defined the concept as a 'positive employee attitude towards the organisation and its values, involving awareness of the business context, and work to improve job and organisational effectiveness. They stressed the two-way nature of employee engagement.
In 2006, Saks extended the employee engagement concept to encompass both job engagement and organisation engagement. Social exchange theory – a communication theory – is proposed as a theoretical base, with its foundation in reciprocal relationships. So, for example, employees are engaged because of the reciprocal exchanges, both at supervisor and organisational levels. The implication for practice included the suggestion that organisations that address employees' concerns and demonstrates caring attitudes towards employees create a culture whereby this is reciprocated through higher level of engagement.
In 2008, Bakker and Demerouti stated that engagement is characterised by 'vigor, dedication and absorption', while Macey and Schneider suggested that engagement is a set of constructs that integrates: state engagement (passion, energy, enthusiasm, activation), behavioural engagement (adaptive behaviour) and trait engagement (personality attributes).
In 2009, in a practitioner-oriented review of employee engagement in the UK, MacLeod and Clarke came across 50 definitions. They concluded that: 'We believe it is most helpful to see employee engagement as a workplace approach designed to ensure that employees are committed to their organisation's goal and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, and are able at the same time to enhance their own sense of well-being'.
In 2010, Alfes et al. (Alfes, Truss, Soane, Rees and Gatenby) defined engagement as 'being positively present during the performance of work by willingly contributing intellectual effort, experiencing positive emotions and meaningful connections to others'. They highlighted a set of drivers and the two most important were meaningful of work and voice – being able to feed your view upwards.
In 2012, Gourlay et el. (Gourlay, Alfes, Bull, Baron, Petrov and Georgellis) distinguished between different levels of engagement, described as 'transactional' and 'emotional': 'transactional engagement is shaped by employees' concern to earn a living, to meet minimal expectations of the employer and their co-workers, and so on. Emotional engagement is driven by a desire on the part of employees to do more for (and to receive more – a greater psychological contract – from) the organisation than is normally expected'.”.
Indeed, the above list is not complete. The book reports so many more contributions, definition, concepts and all their valuable implications for those who deal with the subject - both academically and in practice terms - that I would strongly recommend reading it.
It is very interesting for me to see the development of these studies, the many disciplines (communication, psychology, business, sociology, etc.) that all come together and add some value on to each others.
As I like to look back to better understand the present, I equally – an excitedly – look forward to the future.
With this, sometimes I wonder: What kind of marginalia will I write in x-year time? What will the future developments of this important and very fascinating discipline be? Let's continue exploring...