Author Archive for Ellen Bryson

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Organizational Health Drives Performance!

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011 by Ellen Bryson

In 2003, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that spending 10% of revenue on capital improvements boosts productivity by 3.9%, but a similar investment in developing human capital increases productivity by 8.5% – more than twice as much. Evidence continues to mount that supports the belief that dollars invested in the health of an organization produce greater results and provide companies with a competitive advantage that cannot be duplicated by their competitors.

If you had to sacrifice one side of the business for the other, you would be better off sacrificing the “smart” side for the “healthy” side. Think about the “smart” side being about performance and the “healthy” side being about people. There is a growing statistical evidence that “healthy” companies perform more successfully yielding above median financial performance. When companies focus on both performance and health, they are twice as successful as those focusing on health alone and three times more successful than those focusing on performance alone. Health drives performance.

In a McKinsey Quarterly article by Scott Keller and Colin Price, they have substantiated through extensive survey results that at least 50% of an organization’s long-term success is driven by its health.

What are you doing to improve your organization’s health?


9 Steps to Deeper Employee Engagement

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011 by Ellen Bryson

According to a 2011 Blessingwhite research paper on employee engagement, fewer than 1 in 3 employees (31%) worldwide are actively engaged at work. This response was provided by approximately 11,000 individuals from North America, India, Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia/New Zealand and China. While some would say this is depressing news, the flip side is that it provides almost any organization in existence today with an opportunity to improve financial results by increasing employee engagement!

So where does one start? In order for people to feel connected to an organization and become more engaged, they must understand the mission and purpose. They must know why the company exists beyond making money and how their performance contributes to the overall success of the organization’s goals. Leadership must communicate and inspire a shared vision and ensure alignment of people and their work with the strategic goals of the company. People must feel a part of the organization and its success.

Following are 9 steps you can utilize to deepen employee engagement and productivity.

1. Hold employees accountable for delivering quality work, hitting targets and meeting deadlines. Show them how their goals connect to the company goals.
2. Manage, encourage, motivate, recognize and reward.
3. Ensure employees have proper tools and equipment to do their jobs. Utilize technology.
4. Provide training and additional learning opportunities. Encourage personal development.
5. Expect teamwork; inter and intradepartmentally.
6. Live company values and use them in decision making.
7. Communicate company strategy and report progress to all employees regularly.
8. Seek input from employees. Encourage two-way feedback. Involve employees in decision making.
9. Share the vision and provide consistent communications.

In order to reap the benefits of an engaged workforce, all employees must be accountable for their active participation in the process everyday. Whether you are an employee, manager or executive, you have a role to play. Individual employees must have a clear understanding of the company’s direction, and must take responsibility for determining how their skills and interest can be best aligned for personal and company success. Managers are responsible for coaching and developing strong relationships with employees. Only when managers truly understand the special talents of their employees and what unique things motivate them can they effectively align employees skills/interest with organizational objectives. Executives are unique in that they significantly impact the level of employee engagement through communication and development of the culture. Executives should be diligent in holding themselves and their peers accountable for high performance and sustainable results; they should expect high levels of trust and authentic leadership. In short, they must lead by example.

Engagement matters and has a significant impact on a company’s financial performance. Hopefully, these tips will help you align your people and strategy in a way that will enable you to produce greater results by engaging a larger percentage of your workforce.


Live Life Like You Mean It!

Friday, May 27th, 2011 by Ellen Bryson

Ever worked with someone that promised you the moon but only delivered empty promises? It’s very frustrating and disappointing to say the least. The implications run deep. Broken promises create mistrust. Trust is an essential ingredient in every relationship whether it’s with a customer, spouse, child, friend, co-worker, boss, peer, colleague, etc. Without it, you have nothing; it forms the foundation of every relationship.

Webster defines trust as a firm belief or confidence in the honesty, integrity, reliability, justice, etc. of another person or thing; faith; reliance. It’s very important to do what you say you are going to do. Every time you commit or promise to do something you don’t deliver, you are chipping away at trust. Telling the truth with the intent to mislead is no better. No matter how insignificant it may seem mistruths erode the level of trust others have in you. It’s the little things that add up over time to big things. Actions speak louder than words. If people do not see you living the values you espouse, you will lose their trust and your credibility.

Trust is a societal value that every organization should expect of its employees. It’s what we refer to as a “permission to play” value. Over the past 15 years, there are countless examples of companies that have fallen because they lost site of the importance of trust. Look at the ripple effect that subprime loans have had on society. Sadly, we seem to continue down this path. Trust appears to have been replaced by integrity; integrity seems to have been redefined as ethical behavior. Companies and governments continue to institute rules and regulations to try and control behavior. Our society has lost site of the fact that values must be internal to our being. We must hold them as self truths and believe in them before we can live them. We have to get back to the basics and expect people to be trustworthy. Leaders have to set the example.

Recently, I heard a story about a CEO who runs marathons; he boasted to his staff that when he gets to a water table and has his cup of water, he deliberately knocks over the remaining cups on the table so his competitors can’t have water! Does this person inspire trust? Does he have compassion for others? Would you want to follow a person who had so little regard for the health of others? Can he be trusted to do the right thing for the company; shareholders; employees? Winning at any cost isn’t the point!

Ever heard a leader make the statement, “that’s my opinion and it ought to be yours too”! People joke about this statement all of the time, but I actually know people who honestly believe it to be true. They ask others for input and pretend to be interested in what they have to say, but inevitably disregard the input they receive and do what they want to anyway. This does not create an environment of trust. It does not encourage people to want to share and be open and honest in their communication. If anything, it shuts communications down completely and causes people to disengage.

Do what you say you are going to do. Be true to yourself. Keep commitments, no matter how small. Take action when you say you will. Do what you promise to do. Acknowledge when you fall short and do what it takes to make it right. Truth begins with the individual.


Culture Disconnect

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011 by Ellen Bryson

Recently, I had lunch with a friend that mentioned his company was experiencing 30 to 35% turnover. He stated this was not concerning to him. In fact, he said he sees this as a positive thing because he feels the people that don’t fit with their culture are weeding themselves out. This level of turnover has a high price tag. It is definitely something that deserves further analysis and understanding because turnover is extremely costly. If you consider on average that turnover costs companies approximately 150% of the worker’s annual salary, it has a direct impact on the bottom line.

Jack Fitzenz, a noted human resource and retention expert, believes the two main reasons people leave companies are the supervisor and the culture. This is one of the main reasons it is important for companies to align their staffing and retention activities to the core culture. In the scenario described above, a good first step would be to review the company’s human systems and evaluate the processes used to recruit, hire and train employees to see if they align with the culture.


The Importance of Alignment Post Recession

Thursday, May 12th, 2011 by Ellen Bryson

Aon Hewitt, a global provider of human resource solutions, released its 2011 Talent Survey on May 3, 2011 citing a gap in leadership effectiveness and the ability to drive change in the post recession environment. Of the 1328 employers surveyed nationwide findings identified a gap between the leader’s involvement and their effectiveness.

Results indicate that leaders play a vital role in meeting business goals; 56% of respondents agreed, but only 12% rated their leaders as extremely effective. A leader’s involvement is essential in meeting profitability targets; 56% agreed, however, ony 14% believe their leaders are extremely effective in doing so. Fifty six percent of the respondents felt their leader’s involvement was necessary in delivering service, but only 17% felt they were extremely effective. Lastly, 44% of the respondents agreed that their leaders play a vital role in retaining talent, but only 7% believe they are extremely effective in accomplishing employee retention.

These findings demonstrate the need for leaders to evolve their skills as they are confronted with new barriers to growth that have arisen out of the recent recession. New leadership skills are required to increase productivity and engage the workforce. In this environment, it becomes increasingly important to align employee’s jobs with the business strategy so that employees feel a deeper, personal connection to the company. Employee development and training are essential for equpping middle managers with the tools and expertise needed to help drive this change since they provide the bridge between strategy and execution.

The most successful companies develop a process that can help gain clarity and focus while aligning the organization around vision and strategy. The basic premise shifts executive team focus from operational issues to strategic priorities and decision making. It is a proven fact that companies that focus on strategy generate significantly higher financial results and higher rates of growth than their competitors.


Steps for Workplace Conflict Resolution

Friday, March 18th, 2011 by Ellen Bryson

Conflict that turns personal is unhealthy. Conflict typically arises in the workplace when employees have different opinions, perceptions, or goals about something that is impacting their ability to do their job successfully.  Some of the contributors to conflict are poorly defined responsibilities and accountability on projects, acceptance of poor job performance, lack of knowledge or experience, unresolved work issues, limited resources, personal goals versus company goals, office politics, etc. If disagreements or differences of opinion escalate to the point where they result in personal attacks, it time for action. Address the situation immediately.

Following are some steps that are useful for resolving conflict.

  1. Meet with both parties together. Do not take sides.
  2. Give each party and opportunity to summarize the issue and their point of view without interruption or comment. This will help clarify the issue and identify the root cause of the conflict.
  3. Do not allow any personal attacks.
  4. Determine if there is a work situation that is causing the conflict or problem that requires your involvement to eliminate.
  5. Ask each party to specify the actions they would like to see the other party take to resolve the disagreement.
  6. Ask each person to recommend a start/stop list for the other person.  This list should contain a couple of suggestions of things that they would like to see the other person start doing or stop doing in order to create a healthier team or environment.
  7. Gain commitment from each party to make the agreed upon changes.
  8. Set an expectation that you expect the parties to resolve their differences.
  9. Communicate consequences that will occur if the situation does not improve. If differences cannot be resolved, this may require termination of both employees.
  10. Monitor progress.