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Engagement 2.0 | Beyond Motivation

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I love buzzword bingo at happy hour after work and Employee Engagement has quickly joined the pantheon of all-time greats. World-class. Win-win. Raises the bar. Synergy. Employee Engagement. Fits …

I love buzzword bingo at happy hour after work and Employee Engagement has quickly joined the pantheon of all-time greats. World-class. Win-win. Raises the bar. Synergy. Employee Engagement. Fits nicely, doesn't it?

Tim Houlihan and Charlie Besecker 'took a swing at' (I see what you did there) going beyond beyond the traditional notion of employee engagement as a derivative of motivation to actually bridging the gap between the buzzword and tangible business results.


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  • 1. Engagement 2.0 Charlie Besecker, VP Sales at IActionable & Tim Houlihan, VP Reward Systems at BI WORLDWIDE Motivation Motivation isn’t enough. To maximize results you have to drive isn’t enough. focus, personal goal setting and emotional commitment in a system with transparent measurement and relevant feedback. In recent years, business writers have sold millions of books and garnered billions of page views by expounding on how iconic achievers like Einstein, Edison, Jobs and Hawking demonstrate the power of engagement, commitment and intrinsic motivation. The authors attribute the accomplishments of their subjects to powerful systems of internal navigation. These icons eschewed the trappings of fancy lifestyles because the pursuit and achievement of their game-changing work were reward enough. The clever authors imply that you can do the same – it’s all mind over matter. Readers ought not be so gullible. Einstein, Edison, Jobs and Hawking are by no means average. As a matter of fact, these icons are one-in-a-billion. The rest of us are simply not like them. But what about us? Can’t we be exceptional, too? Aren’t we unique, just like everyone else? When it comes to engagement in a particular task, the reader of this piece is likely to be closer to average than to Einstein or Jobs. Sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s the reality of it. Normal people – people who are closer to the norms – can still deliver excellent results; however, it’s just unlikely that we’ll deliver them at the level of an Edison or a Jobs. Within the band of banality, however, each of us can vary the degree to which we engage and deliver results in our respective jobs. Sometimes it can be done through sheer force of will – classic intrinsic motivation – but sometimes it requires a kick-starter. What researchers find is – metaphorically speaking – that putting a little sugar on the cereal persuades us to eat more cereal. In other words, extrinsic motivators help engage when intrinsic motivation isn’t enough. Engagement – and ultimately improved results – requires extrinsic motivation. Why does engagement matter? Experts estimate disengagement costs $300 billion in the United States alone every year. On the positive side, studies show that engaged employees produce over 20% more revenue, are 43% more productive and are 87% less likely to leave. What may surprise you most is that, statistically speaking, only one in three of your employees is engaged. If you don’t care about engaging the other 2/3 of your workforce, read no further.Engagement 2.0 ©BI Worldwide™ 2012
  • 2. Engagement 2.0 1. Motivation Basics: Moving the Middle It’s likely that your organization is made up of a small group ofThis is trickier people who are intensely engaged and a large group of peoplethan you might who are either ambivalent or genuinely disengaged. We cannot bethink. Just ask certain that all top performers are among the intensely engaged, though it’s likely. What we do know about the top performersBen Franklin. is that they are producing more results than anyone else in the enterprise and we want to keep them that way.Benjamin Franklin, To get the middle and lower parts of the curve to move toward theanother one-in-a-billion top, behavior and cultural change are often required. The standardicon, wrote extensively distribution curveabout his own journey suggests that atowards self-improvement. relatively equalHe developed a tool number of top andto track categories poor performers(virtues) for improvement balance out a(measurement) and to weighty group ofchart his performance average performers(feedback). Before he in the middle.actually used the tool hecreated, he made some The concept andguesses as to how well graphic in Figure 1he’d perform. When he are familiar to many.used the scale and rated It represents ahimself candidly, he standard distribution. However performance metrics fromclearly saw he was not more than 850,000 sales professionals in North America,as virtuous as he thought Europe, Asia and South America, indicate that this standard curvehe was. One of the most under-represents the impact that a global recession has had onbrilliant minds in history sales organizations. Employees that once occupied the lowestwas mistaken about his positions are gone – fired, laid off and weeded out. That swaysown level of performance the shape of the curve to look more like this: (Figure 2)until he began to trackand measure it. 2 Engagement 2.0 IActionable  | BI WORLDWIDE
  • 3. Engagement 2.0 One way to look at the data from the real world is to consider the graphic below. It represents real activity and real results – not purely theoretical concepts. The graphic in Figure 3 summarizes the reps’ performance from eight different sales forces’ during a 90-day period – all post-recession. The slope is not quite as steep as it was prior to the financial downturn– the top performers in Quintile 1 do not outshine the other quintiles as powerfully as they once did. The point is that the impact of top performers on total results is less than what it once was and less than what you probably thought it might be. Designing an engagement program and managing it well can improve performance across the board – which is important if you want to maximize results. With the proper feedback and fundamental program design in place, sales employees at all levels of $90.0 performance can make meaningful contributions to $80.0 the aggregate results. In the results seen in figure 4, $70.0 motivation from a specific, non-monetary incentive $60.0 drove remarkable results. Similar outcomes have $50.0 $40.0 been replicated hundreds of times. $30.0 The incremental revenues show that motivation $20.0 $10.0 can take place at all levels along the performance $ 0.0 curve. Furthermore the greatest gains (not just percentages, but net revenues) can be obtained by designing for the entire audience rather than only the top performers. 2. Engagement Some consider engagement an all or nothing situation. It’s not that. Engagement allows for degrees of expressing commitment to the organization. It might be helpful to visualize engagement as if it were an elevator in a 10-story building. Some employees will be willing and able to rise all the way to the top floor. But not everyone will get there. In a typical organization, even one with well-designed engagement initiatives, some employees will only make it to the seventh floor, or the fifth, or the second. To maximize motivation and engagement, an organization must tailor communication and feedback to the right floor. A message that resonates with a second-floor employee won’t be meaningful to someone on the seventh floor. To help people move to higher floors requires commitment and transparency, as well as relevant rules, rewards feedback and communication. Of course any upward movement requires a solid foundation. Without meaningful work, competitive pay, opportunities for growth and adequate working conditions, the elevator will never get off the ground.3 Engagement 2.0 IActionable  | BI WORLDWIDE
  • 4. Engagement 2.0Park your The Engagement Elevator.illusions at the In your organization, every person will be starting the journey up the engagement elevator from a different floor. The objective shouldside of the road. not be to get everyone to the top floor. Aim instead for providing opportunities for your people to move up a floor or two at a time. The key differentiators between floors are:People are complex.The brightest researchers Motivation. The first few floors arehave been studying purely about providing a motivationalhuman behavior and environment for people. To paraphrasedecision-making for R. Buckminster Fuller: “Don’t changedecades and still are the person; change the environment.”confounded. The And that’s just what offering uptrouble is often this: opportunities for motivation is about.if we don’t like the Short-term incentives, spiffs, short-termtheory, we immediately bonuses, project recognition andconsider ourselves an relevant feedback make an(appropriate) exception. environment motivational. These tools send the message to your people thatThis is because most of there are opportunities to be recognizedus are squarely, solidly in for incremental effort. For those whothe norm, even though are just getting started, a motivationalwe’d prefer to imagine environment needs to be relevant toourselves to be the their needs as a novice, so tailoringnext Jobs or Einstein or the tools to their situation will helpFranklin. Most of the time maximize impact.we are not the exception.One study found that The low end of a typical sales force92% of all drivers believe was commonly thought to be thethey’re in the top 50%. bottom 30%. With the dramaticApparently most of the economic changes of recent years,drivers in the lower 50% however, the bottom segment is nowharbor the illusion that far narrower, between 10% and 15%they’re in the upper 50%. of the total. There’s no tolerance for poor performers, especially with soBefore you launch a new many eligible and eager salesengagement initiative, professionals waiting in the wings.take time to unearth any Typically this group is comprised of newbies – where incrementalsimilar illusions lurking in motivation will have the greatest impact.your organization. Thenleave them by the side Engagement. Above and beyond a simply motivationalof the road. That way, environment lie the floors where engagement happens.you can work on driving These are the levels where employees are living and flourishingtoward that incremental in the motivational culture you’ve created and contributing moreprofit that is characteristic because of their intrinsic desires than simply responding to theof companies with highly motivational tools around them. On the lower engagement floors,engaged employees. the employees are starting to see the connection between what 4 Engagement 2.0 IActionable  | BI WORLDWIDE
  • 5. Engagement 2.0 they do and the successes of the organization. Further up the Engagement Elevator, reps are filling their calendars with meetings and projects – a combination of short-term and long-term activities that all support the enterprise’s long-term objectives. In the old economy, this middle group was commonly thought to occupy 60% of the sales force. Today, it’s somewhere in the 75% range. Within this group there can be variances in levels of engagement and delineation between high-mid, low-mid and middle-mid. Overall this group is growing and needing help withMost people mix up the connection between their ability to engage (beyond simplethe relationship between motivation) and the environment they’re engaging in (your company).happiness (work Results. The top floors are reserved for those who practicesatisfaction) and good a sort of alchemy when combining the tools of motivation andwork (strong performance). engagement while delivering excellent results. Their performanceMost managers believe has typically reached high levels because they have internalizedthat if you make people the way motivation works in their lives and their jobs. They’ve gonehappy with pizza parties beyond the basics of motivation and figured out how they canand cheery signs in engage at superior levels and work for a company that reciprocatesthe cafeteria, they will with an environment that allows them to thrive.become better workers.The correlation is These people were once considered the top 1% - 2% of thebackwards. Research organization and they were frequently promoted out of the jobs theyconducted by were doing exceptionally well. Today, we observe top performersCynthia Fisher, PhD, on the Results floors occupying more than 10% of the saleswhile at Bond University population. Those who are near the top end of the Engagementin Brisbane notes that the group can be coaxed onto the Results floors through incrementalkey driver of happiness support in aligning their jobs with corporate objectives.on the job is meaningfulwork. If your people havegood work to do, rather 3. Resultsthan mundane tasks Bridging the Gapwith no relevance to the Between Engagement and Resultscompany’s mission, Understanding how to engage employees is a significant step butthey’re much more likely it’s not the final step in moving toward results. The final step is toto be engaged. Try giving understand how to both leverage and focus engagement to produceyour team the kind of tangible business results. Does engagement inherently andwork that counts, automatically produce tangible business results? Not necessarily.connect them to the Employees can be engaged but not focused – perhaps they wantbigger goals of the to help but don’t understand the best way to do so. Converselyenterprise, and see employees can be focused and motivated but not engaged –what happens. perhaps they’re driven solely by personal ambitions and not at all by a desire to see your organization succeed. Delivering results on a consistent basis requires focused engagement, emotional commitment and oftentimes, individual goal setting. There are three keys to moving the meter from the merely engaged to the results side of the equation. Here’s how you get more employees to ride the engagement elevator all the way to the top. 5 Engagement 2.0 IActionable  | BI WORLDWIDE
  • 6. Engagement 2.0 1. Help them set goals. All organizations are looking for employees who go above and beyond for both themselves and the organization. When goals are missed or things don’t go according to plan, how do your employees react? Are they indifferent or do they seek a solution? If your employees were truly engaged, the latter would be the case. Try giving your teams the ability to set specific goals. Sales people who reach their goals for the day/week/month may then slack off simply because they weren’t engaged in the process of setting the goals. How often do you see average level performers hit cruise control once they’ve achieved the goal you assigned them? Allowing your team to self-select their goals (often short-term goals in support of the larger, strategic initiatives) will enhance their execution every day. How can assigned goals sabotage performance? A recent study found that cab drivers in New York City work fewer hours on rainy days when there are more fares to be had than on sunny days. Even though we all think we want to make as much as we can, the truth is, we set income goals all the time, almost unconsciously. And these goals are really powerful. The cab drivers admitted to researchers that they had goals for average daily income. Sure enough, once those goals were achieved, they were likely to call it quits, even on a rainy day when there was more money to be made. Their irrational selves took over and suspended normal effort (since they didn’t even work a full shift). Don’t falter under the illusion that your people are different – they aren’t. You’ll need to appeal to their desire to set their own goals. But you’ll also need to make the goal-setting process intentional and mindful, rather than unconscious, to get to the Holy Grail of engagement and results. 2. Get them emotionally engaged. Every organization has a few top-tier employees who are engaged and regularly exercise discretionary effort to go above and beyond. Where business can dramatically impact overall productivity via engagement is to “move the middle” by exporting the top-tier of engagement tools to the majority. With mechanisms such as regular feedback, objective measures and reminders of the big picture, organizations can export the mentality of engagement the same way a good Super Bowl ad keeps us talking for days after the event: by resonating with the emotions of the audience. Emotional commitment to the task, the team, or the organization leads to engagement as the norm rather than engagement as the exception. Moving the middle often begins by offering an emotionally charged reward in exchange for short-term increases in productivity, sales, or profits. The most effective rewards have high emotional content (referred to as “hedonic” by the academics) and will be talked about with family and friends (known as “sociability”). These rewards might include earning badges, collecting points, competing in a stack ranking, public recognition, team building, or6 Engagement 2.0 IActionable  | BI WORLDWIDE
  • 7. Engagement 2.0 participating in sales rallies. Emotional aspects of the rewards are likely to be personal, including your personal dreams and aspirations or things you can share with your friends and loved ones. Ironically, this endeavor to enhance our own lives results in greater emotional commitment to the enterprise. The more events – either personal rewards or public recognition for performance – that build up for a person, the more likely they are to reciprocate their emotional engagement sponsored by the firm. Fundamentally, engagement can be learned. When we practice and repeat higher levels of performance – even if for short-term rewards or feedback – we strengthen underused muscles so that long-term results are easier to achieve. 3. Measure for success. Even after everything herein has been accomplished you still could have a mass of highly energized and engaged employees that can’t make it happen. This brings us to the notion of focused vs. unfocused engagement. Enter management. Effective management understands the business down to line-level detail; yet most often such detail is enforced from a punitive standpoint rather than from an engagement standpoint. Metric-based engagement takes all of the concepts described and applies them not just to overall job performance but also to specific metrics that make employees truly successful. The most effective measures include two elements: objectivity and relevance. Objectivity is often defined in terms of transparency, which is a good thing. Trust in the numbers impacts performance – the higher the trust, the more likely a sales rep is to push a little bit harder. Recently, a pharmaceutical company acknowledged their data was only good +/- 3% yet they made no accommodations to allow for achievers within that margin of error. In very short order, reps near the margin simply gave up because they didn’t believe in the data. Relevance, in this context, means having an impact on your organization or its people. Measures must be known to be relevant – if no one knows about it, it isn’t relevant. To make your metrics relevant, link them to the strategic objectives of the business unit or corporation. Communicate them clearly. And use rewards and feedback to recognize those who achieve. When the regional manager recognizes a rep at a team meeting for achieving (especially) a new measure, little bursts of dopamine are released in that rep’s brain and others in the room automatically connect to their desire to have that happen to them. Relevant feedback acts as the foundation for this experience to happen.7 Engagement 2.0 IActionable  | BI WORLDWIDE
  • 8. Engagement 2.0 Summary It’s not enough to simply communicate the value of one’s role within an organization – employees must understand how their daily actions contribute to their positional success and then understand how success in their position leads to overall corporate success. They’ll do best when they’re reminded regularly through reliable, transparent feedback mechanisms such as helping them focus on good measures, good goals and the emotional currency of the enterprise. These are the tools that allow employees to jump up a floor in the engagement elevator – knowing their objectives and that their efforts are recognized. Since the middle section of average performers makes up the largest percentage of your sales force, charge after them first. Develop and implement systems that give them the opportunity to move up the engagement elevator with challenges and rewards that are relevant to them, not just the top performers. Bring engagement from a high, abstract concept to a relevant level that is both measurable and achievable – and you’ll turn the nebulous concept of employee engagement into tangible business results. About the Authors Charlie Besecker is a founder of the enterprise Gamification company, IActionable. Charlie has designed and built over 50 sales teams for start-up to INC 500 to Fortune 500 organizations around the globe. Having hired, trained and managed over 350 people he has unique insight into the people, process and technologies that drive enterprise sales. For the past three years Charlie has been applying this expertise to pioneer the use of Gamification in the workplace. As Vice President of Rewards Systems for BI WORLDWIDE, Tim Houlihan applies behavioral economics to help multinational companies achieve their desired results. He has worked for more than 25 years developing behavioral-based initiatives and leverages technology for the purpose of helping clients improve their results. You can follow Tim on Twitter at @THoulihan.8 Engagement 2.0 IActionable  | BI WORLDWIDE