Nick Miller

Employee Engagement: Training & Development can lead to higher employee retention

Professional development programs can be a key element in employee retention. From a company perspective, training and development programs are meant to improve overall performance. But a well-designed program can do just as much for the employee. By providing employees an avenue through which to build upon their skills, it shows them the company has a vested interest in them as individuals, decreasing the likelihood that they’ll take those talents elsewhere.

The type of individual to partake in career development programs is one who welcomes more engagement. Take advantage of this desire to learn. By engaging this group in a meaningful way, they are likely to communicate these opportunities to employees that may not seek them out on their own. It’s a win-win situation for both the company and the employee base by increasing engagement levels. An engaged workforce is a happy workforce, and this too decreases the turnover rate.

Of course, it’s also important to ensure that training programs themselves are engaging. It will be hard for an employee to see the benefits of training if the material isn’t meaningful, or if the presentation is boring or poorly organized. The first step is to make the training materials and format appealing and motivating, while not coming across as cheesy or self-serving.

Communicate the “why.” Employees need to know that the time taken away from their regularly scheduled jobs is for a purpose. If they know up front what the training will entail and how it will improve their day-to-day operation or advance their career, they will be much more likely to see it as an opportunity rather than an obligation.

Bake in your corporate vision and values. The opportunity to get your brightest workers in one room with the hunger for learning doesn’t happen every day. Take advantage by reinforcing what is most important to your organization. By illustrating their role in the big picture, you are creating internal brand ambassadors, whether they know it or not. This too will increase engagement, and thus increase retention.

Structure your program to create a feedback loop. These are the leaders in your workforce, and they are a valuable source of information. Tap into this wealth by providing them a channel to express their opinions, not just on the development program, but the operations of your company. Show them that their voices are important and act on their suggestions. If they understand that their perspectives are valued, it will only benefit the organization.

Need help developing an engaging training program? Tribe can help.

Brittany Walker

Three ways to get the most out of your employee survey

Employee surveys can become a source of invaluable information for your company. Obtaining honest employee feedback is an essential step to improving engagement and productivity. However, a lot of the legwork is necessary after the survey is complete. Tribe has developed a list of our top three tips to always keep in mind.

1. Slice and dice your findings. Asking demographical questions at the beginning of your survey like age, gender, tenure, work function, etc., will allow you to take your analysis to the next level. Knowing that 20 percent of your employees are unhappy with their work-life balance is good to know, but being able to pin point a specific department or office location where the problem is occurring could help solve the issue even faster.

2. Keep your word on the survey’s anonymity. If the survey was advertised to employees as anonymous, it’s important that it is treated that way. Employees are much more likely to respond candidly and honestly if they know you won’t be able to trace their answers back to them. Working with a third-party vendor like Tribe can also contribute to employees feeling more secure in their responses.

3. Deliver on your promise. One of the worst things you can do after delivering a survey is not following up. Communicating that your survey will affect change will empower your employees and managers to speak openly about their challenges and suggestions. Think of the reasons you are administering the survey and be prepared to take action on what you uncover. If nothing else, you can share the survey results with your employees.

Tribe specializes in crafting, executing and analyzing employee surveys. If you need help with your next survey, Tribe would love to help.

Improving communications with collaboration

Do you need to be face to face to collaborate? In Tribe’s national employee research on functional silos, 92 percent of survey respondents said it was “extremely to somewhat necessary.” In the qualitative portion of the study, we heard comments like, “When you have face-to-face interaction with someone, there’s just this level of trust that you don’t have otherwise.”

Yet we also heard from some respondents that they felt more free sharing creative ideas from the safety of their keyboard. Although the Tribe study didn’t look at introverts vs. extroverts, we suspect introverts are less likely to find face-to-face necessary. 

Simply Communicate published an article on a study titled “Exploring Creativity in The Glorious World of Internal Communications” that raises interesting points related to both collaboration and the introvert/extrovert issue.

90% of respondents said collaboration across the organization would support creative thinking. This is almost obvious and something most people know already – two heads are better than one. It’s very easy to get stuck on an idea but hard to break out of that mold and think of something fresh and unique. Collaboration is one way to achieve those fresh and unique ideas.

Their findings also indicate that different approaches are helpful when communicating with introverts. When communicating with introverts try to respect needs for space or privacy. Try to let them get a thought out/ don’t demand answers from them, they could be mulling over something great. Also, do not try to turn them into extroverts.

When communication with extroverts give praise in front of others. Show them their enthusiasm is appreciated and valued. Give them time and space to explore new solutions, projects or ideas.

Need help figuring out how to spark creativity and inspiration in your organization? Tribe can help!

Increase retention by helping employees advance their careers through training

Training programs can be a key element in employee retention.  The overarching goal of a good training program is not only to improve company performance and build powerful brand ambassadors, but also to help employees advance in their own careers.

When employees see training programs as an avenue for career growth, they’ll become more engaged with the material. And a more engaged employee is someone more likely to stay with the company. It’s a win-win situation for both the company (whose employees are better trained to do their jobs and perform at a higher level) and the employee (who feels his career is progressing in a positive direction).

Of course, it’s also important to ensure that training programs themselves are engaging. It will be hard for an employee to see the benefits of training if the material and/or presentation is boring. The first step is to make the training materials and format more appealing and motivating.

Communicate the “why.” Employees need to know that the time taken away from their regularly scheduled jobs is for a purpose. If they know up front what the training will entail and how it will help them do their jobs better or advance their career, they will be much more likely to see it as an opportunity rather than an obligatory and pointless task.

Allow opportunities for two-way communication. The advent of social media has done wonders for two-way communication in large corporations, giving employees a channel to provide feedback in a fashion that allows acknowledgment of their comments. Gone are the days of the “comment box” that never gets read. Employees expect their voices to be heard and social media tools like chat rooms and forums on the company intranet allow for that to happen. Incorporating these elements is an opportunity to improve training programs, making them more beneficial to all involved.

Need help developing an engaging training program? Give Tribe a call – we can help!

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Minecraft Video Game Displays Gen Y Leadership Skills

Want a better understanding of your Gen Y employees? Just spend an hour or so looking over the shoulder of any young person playing Minecraft.

At first glance, this multiplayer game looks like electronic legos. Players manipulate colored blocks to build rooms, buildings, farms and cities, gathering resources like iron and wood to craft tools and raising crops and animals for food. Random zombies and spiders crop up occasionally and gender-free animals inexplicably reproduce when they get together. (The way you know they’re making babies is a bunch of cartoon hearts appear over their heads.)

A recent Fast Company article outlined five Minecraft lessons for entrepreneurs. Writer Amber Cox described watching her young son play the game and said, “The more I watch him explore this new universe, the more I realize that there are secret lessons within Minecraft that can help everyone–especially us entrepreneurs.”

Minecraft also offers lessons on Gen Y in the workplace. Our two boys, born at either end of the Gen Y age cohort, spend a lot of time on Minecraft. The younger one started his own Minecraft server and is the administrator, which seems to mean he’s in charge of making sure people play by the rules. It’s been an interesting window into his style of leadership, which is quite typical for his generation.

In Tribe’s research with employee populations, we found some marked differences in Gen Y’s definition of leadership. To Boomers, a leader is the person at the top of the hierarchy telling everyone else what to do. For Gen Y, a leader is more about team building.

In Minecraft, the players often work together as a team. Sometimes I see my boys building some giant building or city with five or six people at once, communicating by Skype as they work. No one person seems to be in charge. Yet it’s remarkable to see what they create collectively. They get a lot done.

This more social approach to work is an attitude we also saw in the Tribe study with Gen Y. When asked what it means to be a leader, 76 percent of the respondents agreed with, “Inspiring others to do their best.” Over 63 percent agreed with “Helping to develop other members of the team.” And 59 percent said leadership was the “ability to build strong relationships with those above and below in the company.”

The global assortment of players is also typical of Gen Y. In contrast to Boomers and even Gen X, they’ve grown up in a world made small by technology. Some of the regular players on my son’s Minecraft server are kids he knows from school; others are sitting in front of computers in Canada and Wales.

There’s also an attitude of inclusion that seems unique to this generation. On Minecraft, anyone seems to be welcome as long as they abide by the rules. On my son’s server the rules are: Be respectful; Use common sense; No harsh profanity; No spamming or griefing. (In case you didn’t know, griefing means breaking or destroying others’ things.)

Gen Y expects to work with people who may be different from them. Our oldest is 24, and he plays alongside not only our 13-year-old and his friends, but also their friends’ little brothers. The population seems to skew heavily male, but females like the game too. When a female player was getting unwanted attention from a guy on the server, our son talked to the offending party privately to let him know that was not okay. He said something like, “Don’t think about her as a girl. She’s just like any other player and you need to treat her that way.”

That’s the kind of attitude Gen Y brings to the workplace. It will be interesting to see what they collectively create.

Employee Development: Good Investment or Afterthought?

Many large companies view training and development programs as a waste of time and money. It’s not seen as a profitable investment and is often an afterthought. Managers like to focus on the here and now, and don’t see the benefit of growing employees long-term. When approached with the idea, the arguments range from “There’s not enough time” to “It’s not in the budget.”

Employees are expected to be self-starters, hit the ground running and learn as they go. Employers don’t realize the significant benefit that investing in employee development programs can have on both the employees and the company. In fact, a Harvard Business Review study has shown that employees want the additional training in order to become more valuable and skillful, in turn increasing their productivity and loyalty to the company.

From a recent Forbes article, below are three examples of why development planning makes good business sense.

1) People care if you take a genuine interest in their future.   Emphasis here on “genuine.” Development planning should be something a manager takes a real personal interest in – not an HR-driven mandate.

2) It helps build loyalty, and loyalty increases productivity. The logical corollary to point #1. Taking an honest interest in someone builds loyalty. Loyal employees are more engaged. Engaged employees are more productive.

3) Good talented people naturally want to advance, and appreciate meaningful support in the process. As the HBR study showed, capable ambitious young employees want training, mentoring and coaching. They want to gain skills. They want to become more versatile and valuable to an organization. Who doesn’t appreciate thoughtful support that helps you advance your own career? But the flip side is, if one company doesn’t provide it, enterprising employees will go elsewhere for it.

Train the Trainer: The Importance of Training Middle Management in Times of Change

Many organizations start out with a plan that focuses on the employee experience during a companywide change. What they quickly find is that many times middle management is the conduit through which the information flows. Of course there are always direct communication channels between executive leadership and lower level employees such as blogs, online forums and email, but for a true one-on-one face-to-face conversation, middle management plays an important role.

Before middle managers can lead, they need to be informed. They need to have a solid grasp of the upcoming change and how it impacts the company. They should be well versed on the direct influence the change will have on their department and how each employee in their team will be affected.

Once your middle managers have the information, how well are they able to adapt? Do they begin to put up walls and resist the change? This is a dangerous proposition to any change initiative. Company changes are successful when employees from all levels legitimately buy-in to the transformation. If you have managers who, for whatever reason, think poorly of the new changes, it’s going to hurt the process because of their influence on their department. That’s why it’s important to take the time to communicate the change properly and build an understanding between middle managers and leadership.

Once a manager is onboard and embracing the change, then not only can they act as informers, they can be reinforcers as well. They can be a constant reminder to employees of the reasons behind the initiative. When an employee is having a difficult day because of the change, the manager can be there to remind them of the light at the end of the tunnel. They can let employees know how important their contribution to the company really is. This is one of the most essential roles of middle managers during a change. They are one part leader, one part coach and one part counselor. It’s these three aspects that when combined, help a change initiative succeed for the company and allow the organization to perform more efficiently in the future.

Following the Leader

The power of language is not to be undermined. The way something is phrased can make the difference between a great experience and a catastrophe.

Words can make or break the situation. No one knows this fact better than Capt. David Marquet—the retired U.S. naval captain of a nuclear-powered submarine. He recently recounted his experience with giving orders and what happens when they are blindly followed, even if they are the wrong decisions for the team.

Empower your employees. Capt. Marquet explains that by empowering your employees to provide recommendations instead of the boss calling all the shots, you give employees the boost they need to make difficult decisions and help lead the company in the right direction.

Programs to Build Relationships in the Office

Relationships are what fuel society. As important as they are in your personal life, they are equally important in the workplace. Think about it: Many people spend more time with their coworkers than they do with their actual families. This makes it essential that you dedicate a certain amount of your company’s time and resources to help build relationships between the people that drive your business.

Start with cross training. Creating a program that teaches different individuals new roles will allow workers to get to know each other while growing the overall education and training of the team. If an employee moves on to another opportunity or is unable to work for a significant amount of time, then your company already has someone trained and familiar with the position that can take over at a moments notice. This person has already established relationships with the people in their new position which will allow for a smoother transition.

Don’t be afraid to light the competitive fires in your people. I mean this in a good way. Office contests such as March Madness brackets, fitness competitions and other events that cause water-cooler conversation allow employees to get to know each other on a different level. This helps them during their workday as they come together for specific projects. A previously established fondness and understanding by a fellow coworker allows for smoother working relationships that result in better job performance for both individuals.

Sometimes it might be best to take things outside of the office. It could be as simple as trivia night at a local watering hole or something that requires a bit more planning like a zip lining excursion. Both of these activities involve interactions between employees that allow them to get to know each other and build their relationships. These outside of the office activities, as well as the previous ones mention, end with a mutual respect and established friendship between coworkers. This helps a company meet its goals while also providing a solid R.O.I.