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Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing humanity in the workplace. I am JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, and here with me is Susan White, a national HR consultant. Today we are going to explore the topic of engagement. Each month…you know, Susan, I’m a big fan of Gallup, and each month, the Gallup organization measures engagement on a national and global basis, and consistently – they’ve done this for at least 20 years, and probably longer – consistently, they have reported that only about a third of employees are engaged. By the way, the way they describe engagement is “employees who are involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work.” They have numerous statistics reporting that engaged employees are more productive, happier with their work, and more likely to stay with their company, so this is a very critical topic to companies, to ensure that employees are engaged.
I think you’re right. I’m hearing from a number of clients that they’re really concerned that if they don’t get on top of employee engagement, that they’re going to lose the talent that they have.
Right, right. In my book “JoyPowered®,” I discuss how helping employees understand their strengths – that is, what they do best – and allowing them to do more of that is a great place to start. But recognition, creativity, and helping them make the connection between the role and the organization can each have a significant impact as well. Susan, what are some of your thoughts on engagement?
I think it really does start with satisfaction. You know, are their basic needs being met? Do they feel like they have a good job, that they’re valued, that there’s a career path where they are? Now, I don’t think that’s employee engagement, but I think you’ve got to start there and make sure you’ve got the basics taken care of. I think we spent a lot of time in our careers doing employee satisfaction surveys to get at that. You know, are employees thinking about looking at other employers? Are their benefits really meeting their needs and their family’s needs? And so we spent a lot of time doing that, but I don’t think we really even had thought about…How engaged are they? Do they really believe in our mission? Do they really identify themselves with this organization? And so I think this is a really important topic for us to be talking about today, and I’m so glad that we’re gonna have an expert come in.
Yes, yes. And not only is it difficult to have and keep engaged employees, but how do we even know when they are engaged? Right? And this concept of measuring the engagement. So today, we brought on a special guest who is a subject matter expert on this topic of engagement. Her name is Nikki Lewallen, and Nikki is the head of partnerships for Emplify, and they have found what I think seems like a really simple way to measure engagement. So Nikki, welcome to our JoyPowered® podcast. Tell us a little bit about you and what Emplify is and does.
Thank you, I really appreciate the opportunity to be here. Been really looking forward to this all week, so thanks so much for allowing me to be a guest on a topic that I’m just really passionate about. For seven years, I had a keynote talk that I just did as a kind of pay it forward in the community called “Loving Mondays.” I just believe that we spend so much time in the workplace, like, the average person, I think, works way more than 40 hours a week. And why…why would we be spending time in a place, all those hours away from family, taking away from our energy, if we don’t love what we do. And you mentioned Gallup, and our statistics across the board say that 70% of people are disengaged in their work, going as far as over 20% of people having, like, anxious meltdowns on Sunday about dreading their week, and it’s like, gosh, I’ll tell you what, life flies by, the older we get, the faster it goes. And just to help more people understand that there is a place out there for them to pour their talents and strengths and energy into what they do. So just last year, I joined the Emplify team. We’re a fast growing employee engagement company here in Indianapolis, and our purpose…well, I’d say our overall vision. We define employee engagement as employees having meaning in their work, and our overall vision right now is to help 1 million employees get involved in our technology to help really drive and catapult that goal to get more employees engaged in meaningful work. So our goal is 1 million. We just hit hit just over 30,000 employees that we’re working with right now. So excited about that.
I gotta tell you, I love the whole concept about employee engagement, the way you frame it up, and obviously your “Loving Mondays.” I used to always hear the expression that when you look forward to Monday as much as you do Friday, then you know that you’re a success.
And I think that’s so true.
Yeah. I love it. And Nikki, you talk about being excited about getting more employees engaged. I love the goal of 1 million, even. But Emplify, your process is not actually to engage the employees, but to measure whether or not they are engaged. Is that correct?
Yeah. So, you know, a lot of our process does move the needle on engagement, but many times, we have to collaborate with great partners like Purple Ink to come in and see the diagnosis and see the initiatives and really dive in and help some of those companies. I would say that maybe 50% of the time, our tool completely moves the needle. It might be on simple things like the way that the space is organized and reorganizing the space so that there’s more energy and conversations are easier to have, or just got some feedback from someone on the difference in making a difference in the way the fragrance in the bathroom smells. It was really important for the employees. Like, very simple things that employees feel like they can share needs that they have and leadership is hearing them to make those simple changes. And other times it’s diagnosing that the onboarding program, the first 90 days is not working and we need to figure out how to go in and collaborate with a partner to make that change.
So a lot of it is just simply through awareness, right? That employers might not even know there’s a smell in the restroom, or whatever the case is.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
So tell us a little bit more exactly how this process works.
Yeah. So, it’s really a three part process that runs in a quarterly cadence via mobile technology for a business. So I’ll break that down. It’s a three step process. So first of all, we partnered with Butler University to help us create a psychometric standardized test that employees participate in on the mobile device for six minutes every quarter to give their feedback and feel like they get to have a voice in the company. That helps us to get a metric on an actual engagement score of where the company is. Like many other tools out there, you can break that down by department, by tenure, by location, and things like that, to really slice and dice the information. Once we find where there’s root causes in an organization, we’re going to pulse one question that’s open ended to those departments that are struggling in certain areas, to gain insight from them on their ideas on how we can make change. We believe employees are working near and dear to these issues. They’re probably the smartest people that can tell us where the problems are and what needs changed. And so we’ll take that information, that open ended qualitative information, back to the leadership team, and then help them get those ideas going and help them identify which ones they really want to take and move the needle with. And then we’ve got a coach that works as an accountability partner to really prioritize those initiatives, and they’re usually doing one or two things per quarter to move the needle. So not 25 things, just one or two things every quarter. And then we’ll be coming back to measure again and see where we’ve moved the needle
That makes such sense, that you really focus on one or two. If you tried to do 25 things at once, probably nothing would get done. Right? So that’s smart.
And a lot of companies struggle to get employees to participate in surveys. What kind of response rate have you been getting?
Yeah, that’s, that’s very true. So our response rate right now – and every month we’re looking at these statistics – right now, it’s…it’s 85%. Pretty incredible. So our window of time that the group of employees has to complete the assessment is one week. We communicate with them via their employer, letting them know that the company cares, we’ve hired an outside vendor, Emplify, to help gather your feedback, so you can feel completely safe, you know, this is not information that we’re tracking back to you, you can feel free to be very open with your feedback. And then the next week, Emplify will then touch them three times throughout the week, reminding them to take the survey and letting them know that it’s a six minute participation time. We found statistically that your rates will increase significantly if you stay under the seven minute mark. So we’re always measuring every quarter to make sure that their average participant’s staying under that seven minute and right now we’re at six minutes.
And do they do it via their mobile phone? Is that how it’s done?
Yeah, the majority of people take it via the mobile device, because it’s so simple. If some employers say, you know what, our people really like email, they want to be able to have a link on their desktop, we can do that. And we’ve had a couple of companies where mobile devices just are not the norm, and so having them figure out a plan to set up kiosks in the workspace, we can do that. But I would say 95% of the time someone is using a mobile device.
So short, simple, and frequent seems to be the key.
Short, simple, frequent, and regular accountability. The interesting part is when you present a leadership team with actual quantifiable data about what’s going on in their business, the chances of them ignoring that and saying, you know, what we’ll deal with that later, aren’t nearly as large because they’re seeing this…this data-driven information right in front of them, and just quick action is being taken because the numbers are telling the story is really interesting. So we’ve had just a couple of situations where companies are like, you know what, I don’t really think that’s an issue. But guess what, we come back one quarter later and it’s just as bad or getting worse, and they’re starting to move because they’re seeing that data.
That makes sense. You know, I’m sure they’re used to people saying, you know, I just think people out there aren’t feeling so good. That probably doesn’t motivate people. But when they see the data, and they see that it’s continuing, that’s a call for action. Makes sense.
I heard Adam, your VP of sales and co-founder, speak couple of months ago, and I thought…it was really fascinating to me when he talked about that for, you know, hundreds of years, companies have measured sales, they’ve measured financial reports, they’ve measured turnover and other statistics, but no one has really come up with a simple way to measure employee engagement. I mean, except for maybe the old annual…I would suggest a lot of companies didn’t even ever do an annual engagement survey. But now you’ve got some real hard facts and numbers that you can provide to business owners and leadership teams on a regular basis.
Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, you look at every area of your business and you have numbers that represent what’s going on and you can track back and figure out where the challenge areas are, and we’re just breaking into this. How do we do that with people? And that’s most every leader’s top priority right now. How do I attract great people, and then how do I keep up? Well, we need to be able to have numbers and metrics on that so we can really hone in on the greatest problem areas rather than bringing cookie cutter programs that we don’t even know if they’re really, truly solving the issue at heart. The other topic that you brought up is annual surveys. We find that that’s what a lot of people have done for many years, but if you look at the average length of time that a millennial stays in the workplace right now, it’s 18 months. The average across…there’s four generations in the workplace today, and the average person is staying for four years. So if you’re doing an annual survey, especially in the very hot millennial market, what, you’re going to get their feedback once throughout the entire time that they’re at the company? And then just in general, you know, hearing from your people four times, for the average person, is just not enough.
You know, actually, I didn’t bring it with me today, but I just saw an article yesterday about how turnover is taking a significant increase for those employees who are 55 and older. So I think for the last, I don’t know, maybe seven to 10 years, we’ve talked about this happening with the millennial generation, but seems like it’s going the other way now, too. They’re seeing the value of that, or maybe what millennials are gaining by that.
I would love to hear, what are some of the symptoms that you see in a workplace where there may be disengagement happening? What are some of the signs?
Yeah, that’s great. So what we’ve found is there’s three things that all employees at any level – whether you are someone out working in the field, a high level executive – there are three things that drive engagement, and we believe that those three things are… Safety. Do I feel like I can come to work and be myself, that I can express who I am and be able to speak up, and do I feel like I have a career path in this organization? Two is meaning. Do I feel like my purpose is in alignment with the company purpose, do our whys match up? And the third is capacity. Do I have the tools and resources that I need to be my very best, do I have a leader that’s championing me and empowering me to be my very best? So then what we found, to your question, there’s 14 drivers that clue into those three things that all of us must have. And one of them that comes up a lot is utilization. We just worked with a boat manufacturing company that in three quarters increased their production by $3.8 million simply because of focusing their initiatives on utilization of people and putting them in the right place on the shop floor. So, pretty incredible. So got a lot of feedback from people saying, like, I don’t feel like I’m in the right spot. I don’t…either feel like I’m overutilized or underutilized. And diving in to understand, you know, where those issues are, getting feedback from the…from the employees and figuring out, we need to realign this team and get them into the right seats of the bus. That’s a very popular one. Another one is role clarity, so really understanding what my role is and having key metrics to know when I’m winning has been a very popular one, as well. But there’s 14 different drivers out there. And, you know, we’d be happy to, you know, dive into that further.
I love your definition, Nikki, of safety. Because I think when we see that word, “safety,” most of us, our mind goes to thinking physical safety.
I was thinking OSHA. Yeah.
Right. Right. Right. And so I love it that it’s…I’m sure that’s a piece of that, too, maybe, but not just physical safety, but safety in thought. Right? Safety in expressing yourself. I think that’s a beautiful definition.
Bringing your authentic self to work. Do you feel safe to do that?
Right, right. Very good. Very good. Nikki, here’s one of my favorite questions. Is employee engagement and employee happiness the same thing?
So we have this conversation a lot. I think that happiness is temporal. You know, happiness could be you have an amazing breakfast with all of your coworkers, awesome food, fun camaraderie with your people, and by lunch, you’re hungry again, right? Like, that’s worn off, you’re back at your, maybe, siloed desk in your cubicle, and you’re no longer feeling the happiness that you had in the morning at that breakfast. So we believe that employee engagement is all around true meaning and really helping people get grounded in, you know, their best self and being able to bring their strengths and their talents. And I know Purple Ink, you guys are really big on leveraging strengths. So with meaning, it’s an internal…like, feeling significant as an individual in the role that you’re playing. And happiness is bringing a ping pong table to work or bringing new snacks, which is very temporal. So we’re really there to measure the meaning of really helping people get grounded in their workplace as an individual.
I just think that is so powerful. And I think so many people don’t understand that on the surface, if they really think about it further, but I also talk about that in “JoyPowered®,” and in a lot of our JoyPowered® presentations, we talk about what that means, that we kind of define it as joy is internal, but happiness is external. And it is, the…the happiness can come from the ping pong table or free pizza or casual Fridays, but it’s got to be way bigger than that to get you engaged and JoyPowered®.
Something that drives you from within.
That makes sense. So I know you’re on this mission to get a million people engaged, and you’ve already had over 30,000. Where are these people? Are they all over the US? Are you…how are you expanding?
Yeah, great question. So one of our newest initiatives this year is partnerships, and we’re looking…right now, we work across the US. I would say our company is based here in Indianapolis, we have about 25% of our clients here locally, definitely looking to grow that. But other than that, we’re across the nation and looking to partner with professionals that can really help get in and move the needle with these companies that were able to uncover issues and give them an accountability tool on a regular cadence to be able to make change, who are these people that are already working in these companies that their practice could grow and they could do deeper work if they had a diagnostic tool to really see what’s going on and to be able to measure that regularly. So HR consulting firms, executive leadership firms, you know, CEO roundtable leaders, those kinds of things are really where we’re putting our effort across the nation to align ourselves as partner. So we have a technology that’s integrated into their business, that makes them win, win their clients.
That’s terrific. Yeah.
Nikki, do a lot of your clients use your process for, you know, a year or 18 months, sort of see the trends, and then think, okay, I don’t need this anymore?
You know, we hope that never happens, but we have…we haven’t experienced that yet, just because we are so new. Most of our first clients are now just in their second year. We had a 99% renewal rate on our first year, so that says some pretty awesome stuff. We celebrated that at our last company gathering. But I would say that it almost gets addictive. Like, because we’re running in the background of the organization every quarter, and you’re gaining more and more insight on what’s really going on, I really feel like leaders that might be a little bit skeptical in the beginning, they’re like, yeah, we need to do something, okay, Emplify seems to be a great tool. We win them over after that first or second results presentation, where they’re seeing, like, the real deal of what’s going on in the organization. And then they get to watch things move forward, they get to watch turnover go down, they get to watch their culture come alive. And so, so far, you know, we believe that this is a process that’s ongoing. Our contracts are annual, so with every contract, you’re going to…we’re going to run four times throughout that organization. But so far, celebrating a 99% renewal rate and hope to be a part of that organization for the long run.
Nikki, anything else that our listeners should should know about engagement that we haven’t talked about yet?
Oh, gosh, there’s probably so much more. I would say, you know, if you’re a business leader and you don’t have a priority right now on your people and developing a strong culture….Unemployment is so low. I just heard, you know, just this week, it’s at 2%. It’s a war on talent, finding the best people, and there’s so many organizations that are going above and beyond to create workforces of meaningful work for their people. You got to jump on that ship. I mean, if you’re not someone that has a culture-focused initiative and doing great things and making your people a priority, I just really see those companies really struggling. So that’d be my best suggestion. There’s so many great tools and opportunities out there right now. Emplify’s just one of them. We’re just, you know, one foundational tool. But I would just definitely encourage you, if you’re a leader, sit down and look at your people strategy and, you know, if you haven’t revisited it in a while, visit it and take a look at, you know, where you’re at. If, you know, if you don’t have one, put one in place.
I think that’s great advice.
Yeah. And where can our listeners go to find out more about Emplify?
Yeah, absolutely. You can visit our website, emplify.com. Many client success stories, case studies. Actually, we have a gentleman on our team, Luke, he’s awesome. He’s actually on there live all day, every day, so you can chat with Luke and set up a time to meet with us and have a conversation.
And just to be clear, you spell Emplify E-M-P-L…
…I-F-Y dot com.
And do you have a Twitter handle, too?
@Emplify. Very simple. Just like your tool.
Very simple to use. So. Well, thank you so much for coming, Nikki. It’s been a pleasure to have you here and to learn more about engagement.
Thank you so much.
So JoDee, do we have any listener email or phone messages?
We do. And and in addition to being able to call us on the JoyPowered® podcast hotline, listeners can send us questions and topics via JoyPowered® on Facebook or Twitter. So here’s a recent one we received from Paul in northern Indiana. Paul says, “I’ve been in my current role for three years, and I don’t have a job description. I’ve talked to some of my peers and to my manager about this and no one else seems concerned. They think if I know what my job is, why do I need it written down? In my previous positions, I always had a job description, so to some extent, it’s just a comfort for me to have it. But I’m not sure how to articulate the importance of having one to my manager. Can you help me, or what are your thoughts?”
Hey, Paul, I have to tell you that I’m not 100% convinced you need a job description, either. I would need to know how large of a firm you’re with. You know, how much infrastructure is there? Do you have performance reviews that are tied to goals? How are your rewards working? I think all that’s important to think about. If you’re in a culture where people are learning each other’s jobs all the time, that you are a really mobile, fluid work team, it may not be critical that you are in a box. Now, on the other hand, there could be real reasons to have one. JoDee, what are you…what’s your thoughts?
Well, our recommendation on the employer side is always to have one. I agree with you, from Paul’s perspective, may not be all that important. But we encourage employers to have them so that when they’re recruiting for the position, they’ve got at least the position well-defined, to think about what did they need in this role, what kind of skills, educational background requirements they need, so that they’re not trying to create that all of a sudden, at the time they might be in a panic to hire someone. And then you mentioned performance reviews, as well. Honestly, I think a lot of companies don’t necessarily connect the two, but if they did accurately connect the two, it’d be easier to measure performance by understanding what is the true responsibility of the position.
It can also, by having a job description, can make it significantly easier for companies to market price positions by looking at market studies on…on compensation so they can match up key roles to defined descriptions on comp studies.
So Paul, it sounds like it’s really important to you, and so I think anything that’s really important to you in your place of employment, it makes sense to sit down and talk to your boss and tell him why it is that you want to have one and then offer to maybe help him build them. I’m hoping you’ve got some, maybe, examples from your prior jobs. Or you can easily go out and take a look, Google job descriptions and sit down and say, “It would give me great comfort to outline the duties that I’m doing, and it will help you someday, if you promote me to a different job, for you to fill my job.”
I think it’s a good discussion, I think you ought to have it.
Right. I agree. Okay, let’s look at what’s in the news today. Susan, I saw Silk Road, a talent management software company, issued their annual Sources of Hire report this summer, and I thought it was interesting. On the topic of employee referrals, they said that is an employer’s top source of hires, with more than 30% of all hires coming from employee referrals.
You know, I do believe that. Back when I was managing a pretty large staffing group, we found that 40% of our hires came from employee referrals, so I know it’s a significant feeder group of candidates.
Interestingly, though, they also reported it can be such an easy, inexpensive way to get employees, yet their study showed that most of these programs are well underutilized and that most organizations spend the least amount of money marketing and automating their referral program. So the message here, to me, is that if you are an employer, remind, remind, remind your employees of your referral program and consider how much do you need to be rewarding employees. Wouldn’t you rather pay your current employees for a referral versus going out and spending a lot of money with recruiters or on advertisements that might not be necessary, at least as a first step?
You know, and I have to tell you, I think study after study would prove that a referred candidate is going to perform better for a couple of reasons. One, they do not want to let that person down who referred them, so they don’t want to be a bad employee, they want to rise to that level. And then the second reason is the referrer has his or her skin in the game. They’re going to be watching over that other person and hopefully getting them up to speed quickly.
Right, right. And if you are an employee, we encourage you to find out about what your program is, what…how can you be rewarded for that, and recommend some top notch candidates and earn some money for doing it. So please tune in next time. Thank you for listening today. If you have missed any of our podcasts, you can catch all episodes for free on iTunes or Podbean or Google Play by searching on the word “JoyPowered,” all one word. If you have questions on any HR topic, you can call us at 317-688-1613 or give feedback on our podcast via our JoyPowered® Facebook account or on Twitter @JoyPowered. We welcome listener questions and comments.
Thanks so much.