Category Archives: Employee Engagement

Lessons from Mike Shove- CEO CSC Australia

On Wednesday of this week, I was fortunate enough to go along to the 11th Australian Conference on Culture and Leadership presented by Human Synergistics, in Sydney. Having recently used the LSI at my workplace, I was keen for a refresher and also hoped to get some inspiration on how to change behaviour in my workplace when it seems like an impossible task.

Once again, the best way for me to learn is from experience, and that was why it was fantastic listening to Mike Shove (former Managing Director and CEO of CSC Australia).

Mike was a highly engaging speaker and began by explaining his somewhat typical CEO response to a bad start in his role as MD and CEO at CSC. He said that things weren’t going well with his leadership group and business results were poor. He said he responded with some executive coaching and a ‘retreat’ where they you know “hugged some trees”, did some orienteering and had fun.

Not surprisingly, this didn’t work and things continued to worsen. CSC obviously had standards around behaviour, but they were essentially a number based organisation that also needed to achieve its targets.

Mike credits his HR Manager at the time for suggesting that he try the Human Synergistics circumplex; and more specifically the Leadership Impact tool. Mike was happy to give it a go because he thought he was relatively well liked and that he was an effective leader.

Now I’ve seen some bad results but this-hands down- is the worst I have ever seen and by Mike’s own admissions, he holds the world record for worst circumplex. This just makes his success even more incredible.

Mike LI

Where do you even go from there?

Well one of the most important learnings from this process is that it doesn’t happen overnight. Like any personal change, it does take time and like Miley says, it’s all about the climb.

Mike stuck at it, engaged his leadership team and then looked to the organisational culture. It was a long journey but one that derived huge amounts of learning. The results are nothing short of amazing in terms of the impact that it had on the leadership team, organisational culture and also the bottom line.

If this is something that interests you, I would recommend you check out Mike’s presentation on the Human Synergistics site. I know I’ll be sending it around to my staff that have recently completed the process.

One more thing that was truly impressive was a story Mike shared with us about a senior member of staff. Now this guy was a sales type who was achieving amazing results. However, as Mike described there was a trail of blood left by these results, and this was fitting as the circumplex indicated loads of red in terms of competitive, power and oppositional traits. Now many leaders would argue that these traits are what it takes to be that successful sales guy or that as long as he was achieving the targets- it was worth it.

In being committed to what they set out to achieve in terms of culture, Mike spoke with this sales guy and they ended up parting ways. This move is of huge significance to the organisation in terms of behavioural expectations. It sends the message- “it doesn’t matter how good you are at your job, you still need to contribute to a positive organisational culture”. This is an action I’m not sure many CEO’s would be willing to take, but sales results kept increasing and CSC never skipped a beat.

What a great example and so many learnings. I hope I’m able to facilitate this kind of change in my workplace because I know the results would be amazing.

Do you have any other stories like this you’d be willing to share?


Leave a comment

Filed under Change Management, Employee Engagement, Events

Employee engagement- can you do it on your own or should you get help?

Happy Monday everybody! I can hear the groans already. Mondays are a bit of a pain but then again, you have to start somewhere.

Aside from being a morning person, I opened my mail this morning to find this little gem inside!


A few months ago at the Twitter Beach Meet, I met Elinor Green and Lucie Snape from ‘the face’. We chatted about twitter, its uses in organisations and spoke about why we were there. I was so interested in what they did, we swapped cards. Again, disclosure- I haven’t been paid for these comments and I’ve only spoken with Lucie and Elinor on twitter since we met. I just wanted to share a great idea with the rest of you.

So I open up the card and inside it reads:

Dear Boss,

This is your star employee speaking. I don’t mind working for you, but I don’t love it either, When you talk about the future, all I hear are just words. And my colleagues feel the same. Wouldn’t you want us totally engaged and working at peak efficiency?

Of course you would. So, here’s a tip. If you want to get inside our hearts and minds, check out They really know their chit (and chat).

Now obviously it’s a clever ploy to get you to check out their website listing their services (which might I add is very cool), but it stopped me dead this morning and again I wondered what I could do in my workplace to improve both internal communication and employee engagement.

We know given the current environment that people are less likely to leave their current jobs, and given everything that is happening- they aren’t happy either.

Corporate Leadership Council Research (2008) tells us that disengaged employees are staying and they were 24% less likely to quit their jobs in 2008 than in 2006.

So given that we know that many employees are not engaged (some disengaged)- is it possible to turn this around internally or is it always necessary to engage an external provider to get things started?

Lots of companies use various tools like the Hewitt Engagement Survey, an organisational LSI or a company like ‘the face’ to turn things around. So if you’ve identified a problem in your organisation is it possible to go it alone or must we engage an expert? What are your experiences?

Leave a comment

Filed under Communication, Employee Engagement

Jann Gray- Winner of Best HR Strategic Plan speaks at 2Discover event

Yesterday morning I attended a breakfast seminar which was hosted by 2Discover in at Martin Place. They had organised for Jann Gray, HR director for Ecolab and winner of ‘best HR strategic plan’ to speak, and it gave everyone present an opportunity to follow the amazing 4 year journey of a company that needed to implement major change or perish to the competitors.

Ecolab is a leading provider of cleaning, food safety and health protection products and services. They employ over 400 staff in Australia and service over 8000 customers nationally.

Jann explained that Ecolab were in a bad situation. They were turning over more than 1/3 of their staff each year, revenue was decreasing and a Hewitt survey revealed a very low employee engagement score.

Quoting Jim Parker- CEO South West Airlines- Jann explains that

“The outcome of a successful strategy is having the right people in the right jobs focused on the right things that lead to the business outcomes required.”

Essentially, it’s the way I see talent management but coming from a CEO it really ties the HR strategy to the impact it has on the bottom line.

I’ll briefly take you through a few of the different pieces of the Ecolab puzzle.

Ecolab puzzle

Revamped recruitment and selection policies

After a review of the types of staff they currently had, and assessing what sort of staff they needed in the future, Ecolab realised they needed to revamp their recruitment and selection processes to ensure they were hiring the right people in the right jobs. Previously they were hiring applicants purely on the basis of the technical ability, industry experience and knowledge of the industry. They then realised that they needed people in the future with leadership potential, not just technical strengths. As a result, psychometric testing was introduced in addition to second interviews with senior management. They then looked to training these hires internally to get their technical ability up to the level required.

Talent management/succession planning

At Ecolab, they conducted a succession planning process using the nine box matrix below to identify leadership potential and leverage this potential to drive performance. While there is nothing ground breaking about this matrix, it was an important part of the strategy that was done well.

9 box grid


Another key part of this HR strategy was setting targets and holding people accountable to these targets. Part of this was utilising a scorecard for each business unit and publishing these results to hold people accountable to these newly defined metrics. For most business units, names weren’t published with scores; however for the Sales team publishing names and results was a motivating factor in achieving performance. This scorecard ensured that people were working on the right things.

Rewards and recognition

Additionally, Ecolab reviewed their compensation to ensure that they were rewarding the right behaviours.

I really liked the ‘Making a difference” program that Jann mentioned. Ecolab has six cultural values (and yes Jann was able to name all six!) and they wanted to recognise people that were living the values. In order to celebrate their successes, staff are able to nominate people have demonstrated the values through sharing the story. As a reward, the individual received a wine glass with the particular value printed on it. Funnily enough, this inspired staff to obtain a set of six wine glasses because after that you were given a bottle of wine to go with it!

What an effective and low cost initiative that celebrates the success of your people. In conjunction with an EVP like “the solution is you”, it is a winning strategy.

Finally Jann stated that communication was the key to the whole thing and with out communicating the key messages to people at the time they were happening, the strategy would not have been embedded in the way that it was.

So how do we tie this HR strategy to the impact it has on the bottom line? The results speak for themselves.


Congratulations Jann and the team at Ecolab, and thanks to the team at 2discover for presenting a fantastic seminar.

1 Comment

Filed under Employee Engagement, Events, Talent Management, Values

Contingent workers more likely to suffer mental illness and be harassed

I was reading an article this morning on Science Daily (HT @punkrockHR) which says that according to research by to be presented at the American Sociological Association, employees who are hired as temps, casuals, on contract or even fixed term positions (so jobs that aren’t secure or stable) are at risk for increased mental health problems.

Amélie Quesnel-Vallée, a medical sociologist at McGill University and the study’s primary investigator says that “This research shows that temporary work strains employee mental health, as contingent workers report more symptoms of depression and psychological distress than similarly employed workers who are not in these fixed-term positions.”

This is an important factor for employers in Australia to consider as we rely on the contingent workforce to meet the needs of the business.


According to the ABS there were 8.3 million employees in 2007, and one in four (2.1 million) were casuals. Women accounted for over half (56%) of all casuals. Casuals also tended to be young. Two-fifths of casuals were aged 15-24 years compared with 14% of other employees.

Additionally, in October 1997 in NSW, an estimated 685,000 persons were employed in their main job on a part-time, casual or temporary basis, this being 25% of all employed persons in NSW. Of the 685,000 persons, 33% were employed on a regular casual basis, followed by 23% employed as permanent part-time workers and 22% employed on a casual full-time basis.

Since 1991 there has been a 50% increase in the number of persons employed in their main job on a part-time, casual or temporary basis, from 455,200 persons in 1991 to 685,000 in 1997. While the numbers employed in this type of work have risen in all categories, most of the rise has been in casual full-time employment, from 14,400 in 1991 to 147,900 in 1997.

Even worse still, a Melbourne University study has found that women employed in casual and contract jobs are up to ten times more likely to experience unwanted sexual advances than those in permanent full time positions.

“Our study shows that 79 per cent of those who experience unwanted sexual advances at work are women,” Associate Professor LaMontagne says.

“People who are employed in casual jobs are about five times more likely to be subjected to unwanted sexual advances.”

“The research also shows that people in contract positions are about ten times more likely to be sexually harassed at work,” Associate Professor LaMontagne says.

Victorian Health Promotion Foundation CEO Todd Harper says: “Not only are women more likely to experience sexual harassment but females make up bigger proportions of industries which use more casual and contract labour.”

Sounds like these issues are real for our contingent workforce, and something that I don’t think we place as much focus on in Australia. Is this an issue for your workforce and what are you doing about it?

Leave a comment

Filed under Diversity/Bullying and Harassment, Employee Engagement

As promised… uni paper on teleworking- interesting read!

The concept of ‘teleworking’ is emerging in the world of work as a flexible form of employment which can provide many benefits to employers and employees. It has been seen to provide benefits to workers through offering employment options for those who may normally become excluded from the labour market, in addition to an enhancement of job satisfaction. Moreover, employers also reap the benefits of teleworking, with financial savings made possible by means of a reduction in overhead costs and necessitation for office space, an amplification of the labour pool and a noticeable decrease in absenteeism levels. However, there are also some notable disadvantages of teleworking which include matters concerning a lack of social and group interaction for teleworkers, and the pressure to ensure productivity levels are consistently high compared with others in the workplace. Employers may also encounter problems tracking precisely what the employee is completing, and ensuring that functions such as remuneration and rewards are appropriately allocated.

There is a high level of ambiguity associated with the term ‘teleworking’ as the concept remains difficult to define. This may be attributed to the use of tantamount terminology used interchangeably including ‘telecommuting’, ‘homeworking’ and ‘teleworking’. Telecommuting initially emerged as a means of preventing the daily travel to an individual’s place of employment. The first telecommuter on record was in 1977 when a Boston bank president installed a phone line between the bank and his home (Blackwell, C.W. 2002). In 1973 Jack Nilles, a rocket scientist working on a NASA satellite communications project moved his work home in order to avoid the Los Angeles gridlock. Consequently he felt relaxed, with fewer interruptions and experienced noticeably higher productivity levels (Buttross et al. 2002). Thus this notion reinforces the idea that work is an activity that is performed rather than simply a location to go to.

Comparably homeworking places immense importance on the location work is performed, namely the home environment. However there are a few aspects which must be evident in order to distinguish teleworking from other forms of decentralised work performed at home; telework should constitute work which is partially or fully independent from the location of the employer, utilise Information Technology (IT) including computers, telephones and the internet, and be delivered through an organisational form with some type of communicative link to the organisation (Baruch, Y. 2000). Thus, teleworking may be defined as a flexible way of working which enables workers to get access to their labour activities from different locations by the use of Information and Communication Technologies (Perez Perez et al. 2003).

working from home

One of the main benefits of Teleworking for employees is the elasticity of the job structure. Workers who are unable to adhere to rigid 9-5 employment in a city location are given the opportunity to complete their job and remain in employment. This may include individuals who have to relocate, are unable to work full-time hours and those with family responsibilities and/or maternity leave. Patrickson’s (2002, pp. 704-715) article articulates that firms may even utilise this widening of the labour pool to include conventionally disadvantaged groups as a method in which to enhance the corporate image as being socially responsible. For instance, teleworking may be an opportunity for disabled or older workers. Evidently this is also a positive for employers who are then able to project a socially conscious image to the public, and/or retain quality, skilled and trained staff from leaving the workplace.

Furthermore with the eradication of travel time, employees no longer endure fatigue, strain and irritation associated with physical travel, have more leisure time and have higher productivity levels due to a minimization of distractions normally occurring in the workplace (Fairweather, B.N. 1999). This is supported by a European Union-backed survey wherein more than 90 per cent of teleworkers for British Telecoms reported benefits such as lack of commuting, higher productivity, increased leisure time, the capacity to multi-task and the independence to choose when to work. Moreover, the flexibility reportedly allows workers to perform whenever it makes sense to the individual such as peak personal times (for instance early in the morning or late at night) which leads to a greater overall control over one’s own time (Colihan et al. 1998). The social impact of this teleworking arrangement has led to 69 percent of AT & T workers to state that they are more satisfied with their job (Hrisak, D.M. 1999). Additionally, motivation may be improved as employees respond positively to the trust and confidence their employers have illustrated (Clay et al. 2001). Thus it may be conceded that the benefits of teleworking may lead to overall increased levels of job satisfaction, personal effectiveness and employee engagement.

Further to this, without the flexibility of teleworking many employees would be imputing less effort and commitment to the workplace, manifesting as high absenteeism levels and even attrition rates. The impacts of predicaments or problems which result in employee becoming absent from work such as weather, transport, illness or injury is significantly reduced with the nature of teleworking (Clay et al. 2001). The 1999 Telework America National Survey reports that 30 per cent of teleworkers would take personal leave, 17 percent would take sick leave and 14 per cent would leave work early to manager their personal needs if they were unable to telework. Thus, teleworking permits a degree of flexibility for an employee which ultimately allows workers to maintain personal needs whilst remaining committed to the job.

However the driving force behind many employers’ decisions to implement teleworking is arguably cost minimization for the organisation. Nilles (1994) affirms that with the costs of traditional office space skyrocketing in recent times, and transferable telecommunication equipment plunging, the expenditure of outfitting a teleworker may be possible to recover in less than a year. The reduction in real estate required is most definitely a major benefit (Blackwell et al. 2002). Additionally in contemporary society, many organisations are forced to consider the impact that the political world creates on the organisation. For instance, after the collapse of the World Trade Centre, the attack known as “9/11”, many are reluctant to place all their resources in one location (Blackwell et al. 2002). Subsequently, teleworking allows a company to have many human resources working from various locations. Thus there are significant savings to be made through the reduction in overhead costs and office space, in addition to the benefit of securing human resources at various locations.

Despite the apparent benefits previously mentioned, there are also the potential disadvantages that must be considered. Employers must contemplate the change in environmental factors which may alter the way work is performed. One of the most prominent concerns is the issue of isolation and lack of interpersonal interaction which is normative in many workplaces. This may include informal chats around the water cooler, grapevine communication, meetings and social outings. In a common teleworking situation, this is abruptly replaced with an individual sitting on their own using emails, faxes and telephone calls to communicate rather than face-to-face contact. As a result, some of the most common disadvantages as outlined by Shabha and Ward (1999) include the inability to bounce ideas and problems off co-workers and others in the workplace, a complete lack of social interaction, feelings of isolation from developments concerning their career and the company, and finally a diminishing sense of belonging to the company which subsequently impacts on the individuals commitment. This may also have a detrimental effect on productivity, creativity, innovation and overall effectiveness (Diamond et al. 2002), with one third of employees surveyed at BC Drinks Ltd asserting that teleworking had increased rather than decreased their stress levels (Harris, L. 2003). This evidence suggests that not every individual has the capacity to telework due to the lack of social interaction, which has serious implications for recruitment and selection of those who telework within an organisation.

Previously the benefits associated with increased control over one’s time were mentioned, in addition to the flexibility to perform work when it is most optimal for the individual. Despite this autonomy, there is evidence to suggest that teleworkers have a tendency to work outside normal working hours with the underlying expectation from management that supplementary hours would be worked (Diamond et al. 2002). Thus, teleworkers feel pressured to work harder to get the tasks done, with many discovering they have increased workloads, due to a lack of support available to those in the workplace such as administrative assistants and managers for instance. A whopping 85 per cent of those surveyed at BC Drinks Ltd reported a longer working day with another 60 percent stating that working weekends to ‘catch up’ was a regular practice (Harris, L. 2003). Therefore, telework as a form of employment may be disadvantageous due to underlying pressures inducing employees to work longer and harder, leading to increased stress levels and a decreased level of potential with the organisation.

Likewise, teleworking has also contributed to the blurring of the division between work and leisure time. Many organisations implement teleworking strategies in the belief that they are promoting the balance between work and family, however in many instances this is not the case. Despite the flexibility of being able to drop children off at school, and work around other commitments in one’s life, teleworkers may also find that the realms of work and family have been blurred to the point that they have become indistinguishable from one another. Tietze (2002) identifies coping strategies such as ‘separators’ which involves adhering to strict regimes in order to keep work and family detached, and ‘integrators’ which follows a more laissez-faire temporal regime to integrate domestic and professional activities. For example, in order to separate work and family a teleworker may establish a closed door area to work in complete with a dress code for the hours of ‘work’. Despite these coping strategies, the teleworker must remain pragmatic about the situation. The time spent at home will take on a new meaning when the realm of work invades this private domain, and the fact that children do not have the capacity to divide between work and play must be considered (Kleiner, B.H., and Tan-Solano, M. 2001). Thus the work and family balance is a responsibility the teleworker must be prepared to manage.

Moreover, the increased autonomy of teleworkers ensures that many of the HRM functions including remuneration, rewards and recognition, remains an intricate process. With this new form of work; the phenomenon that is teleworking, many employers feel that it is difficult to compensate someone who is not under their direct, physical control. In order to overcome this, organisations must learn precisely how to measure real productivity, rather than merely calculating hours spent in the office (Davidson, K. 1992). With this there is also a requirement for companies to learn how to effectively manage the workers who telework, as the standard policies and practices are simply not adequate. For instance, a survey of telecommuting practices in Canada exposed that only 25 per cent of telecommuting organisations had a specific human resource policies directed at their telecommuters (Solomon, N.A., and Templer, A.J. 1993). Also consider the issues of rewards, recognition and promotion. A major concern for teleworkers has been the issue of promotions and recognition, with many fearing that because they were ‘out of sight’ that they would also be ‘out of mind’. Thus this highlights the importance of a performance management system which specifically measures those on productivity and achievements, rather than physical, tangible presence in the office.

So what do you think? I know it was long and you felt like you were marking a paper reading it, but this has reminded me of so many reasons for and against working from home. It’s also important to remember that not everyone has the ability to do this and we need to determine who these people are.

As HR, do we have all our ducks in a row on this one? Are the correct policies and support services in place?

Leave a comment

Filed under Employee Engagement, Performance Management, Worklife Balance

Flexibility at work. Do you really have it?

I’ve been thinking about flexibility at work a lot lately for two reasons.

I’ve been working on a project for women who leave and then return from maternity leave. In reading through research, it argues the importance of talking the talk AND being able to walk the walk when it comes to workplace flexibility. You can’t just have the policies in place; employees need real access to things like flexible work hours, part-time or job share arrangements, and the ability to work from home. In Australia, Government agencies and some private companies have the policies in place and promote these, but when it comes down to it, many managers still feel like they need to physically see their employees in front of them in order to manage them.

Secondly, at my work, I have a lot of flexibility. We are readily available to use flex time, I am a morning person so I get in early and leave early, and the rest of my team (including my manager) are in Melbourne so they rarely actually see me. This is important to me because it suits the house that my brain works best, and I’m at my most creative. Nothing productive gets done for me after 6pm!

working from home

Despite working remotely from my team, I have solid relationships with all of them, and have been able to establish great relationships with other HR people that are located close to me in Sydney. I feel like we’re a great team, even though we don’t physically go to morning tea together or talk about things in person.

In contrast, my boyfriend works in another organisation, where he’s expected to be there from 8:30am to around 6pm no matter what happens. So if he has to stay back until 9pm to get something finished for a client that’s what he has to do. He can’t then come in late the next day or finish early another day- he’s still expected to do the standard day no matter what- even if he’s finished all his work.

This just doesn’t make any sense to me at all and I know that it makes people’s lives difficult and has the potential to make the workforce less engaged because instead of being focussed at work, your mind is wandering thinking about things you need to do or where else you need to be. It also creates transport issues with everyone on the roads, trains or busses at the same time trying to get to work.

As long as you are doing the work- why does it matter where you are or when you do it?

Obviously there are exceptions to this. There are times when you need to be in the office physically, and some roles need to be present at the workplace but there are a lot of companies who need to really think about allowing more flexibility otherwise they will lose top talent who choose to move somewhere that does offer it. This is particularly important for Gen Y who get a taste for it and can’t go back (myself included!). It would make me miserable to take a job in a company where I was expected to be in the workplace 9-5 Mon-Fri even if I wasn’t actually doing anything productive.

This then brings me to ROWE- which is a term which stands for results-only working environment. It means that each person is free to do whatever they want, whenever they want, as long as the work gets done. It empowers people and this strategy has been met with great success by a company in the U.S. called ‘Best Buy’ which was able to increase productivity in the headquarters by a massive 41% while decreasing voluntary turnover by almost 90%. Amazing stuff.

Want to learn more? Take a look at “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: No Schedules, No Meetings, No Joke–the Simple Change That Can Make Your Job Terrific” which was written by one of the people at Best Buy who implemented ROWE.

Check out the ‘Four Hour Work Week’ (I love this blog), this article in the New York Times, or listen to an awesome podcast by Chris Ferdinandi of Renegade HR who interviews Ashley Acker of about ROWE.


Filed under Employee Engagement, Uncategorized

How to get happy at work

A while back I came across Alexander Kjerulf’s blog (where he calls himself ‘The Chief Happiness Officer) and downloaded his book “Happy Hour is 9-5”. He claims to be the world’s leading expert on happiness at work.

With a lot of work being done in the HR space on employee engagement because we know about the benefits of having engaged employees (i.e. better business results, growth in employee productivity, reduced recruitment costs etc), this book is based on those same premises. Happy employees get more work done, are more creative and create more value. This is then a significant competitive advantage for the organisation.

The book starts with this:

I want you to imagine waking up early on a Monday morning.
Picture yourself as you turn off the alarm clock, and lie in bed for a moment before getting up. Your bed is comfortable and warm and you really want to enjoy that feeling just a little bit longer, but just thinking about the workweek ahead of you is making you smile and get ready to jump out of bed.
You just know it’s going to be a wonderful week. You will get to do great work you can be proud of. You will get to make a difference, as you did last week and every week before that.
You look forward to having fun with your co-workers. You will help them whenever you can, and they will help you whenever you need it.

When you are happy at work you’ll be more motivated, enjoy better relationships, experience greater success, energy, health and more fun.

Feeling a bit cynical? Yeah I was too, but part of me was thinking, wouldn’t that be cool if it were possible?

So what is happiness at work? It’s when you:

● Really enjoy what you do.
● Do great work you can feel proud of.
● Work with amazing people.
● Know that what you do is important.
● Are appreciated for your work.
● Get to take responsibility.
● Have fun at work.
● Learn and grow.
● Make a difference.
● Feel motivated and energized.
● Know that you kick butt.

The Scandinavians even have a word for it- Arbejdsglæde (pronounced ah-bites-gleh-the).

The author then goes onto suggest six everyday actions that create a good mood and make us happy at work.

six actions that make us happy at work

What do you think? I personally think that anything that encourages positivity, openness, and learning is a winner in the workplace.

The book also has lots of great information about motivating and rewarding employees, and how to deal with things that make you unhappy at work, such as work stress, burnout and bullying. I like the fact that it additionally talks about health and wellbeing, and then walks you through an action plan to get happy at work.

Feeling a bit bummed about work at the moment? I recommend you check out – you might get some great ideas for your workplace and spread the happiness around.


Filed under Employee Engagement