Employee Engagement Is Everyone’s Job

employee_engagement_kruseThe following is a guest piece by Kevin KruseNew York Times bestselling author.  His newest book is Employee Engagement for Everyone: 4 Keys to Happiness and Fulfillment at Work.   Meritshare founders Kevin Nakao and Travis Pearl are listed as thought-leaders on in Kevin Kruse’s book, so we are offering a free Kindle download of “Employee Engagement for Everyone” through June 28th, 2013.  We thank both Kevin Kruse and Vania Mathas for their support of MeritShare.

The work of MeritShare and others has proven that peer-based public appreciation is a powerful way to foster a culture of Recognition. But what about Growth and Trust, which my research indicates are the other two primary drivers of engagement?

How can we teach all employees to take ownership for their own engagement and even drive the engagement of their peers?

First, employees should identify and focus on the areas that matter to them most. We don’t all have the same motivational triggers, so we must teach employees to focus on the areas that are most important to them. The Personal Engagement Profile, available online at www.MyEngagementProfile.com, is one way an employee can identify their highest engagement values.

Second, we need to teach employees mindfulness—specifically, being mindful of all the things companies and managers already doing to drive engagement. Ask team members to list all the things the company is doing for them, in the areas of Growth, Recognition and Trust. When they’re done, share the complete inventory of all relevant items the company is providing. Often, your list is much longer than theirs, and an “aha” moment occurs when they realize, “Well, I guess they are doing a lot more on communication than I realized.”

Third, we need to teach employees how to partner with their bosses. Don’t think the company is supporting your growth? OK, have you invited your boss to a meeting to discuss your career path? We can help our individual employees partner with their supervisors in a positive manner by providing “conversation starters” and topic ideas.

It’s time for an honest conversation around the individual’s obligations to be engaged and to drive the engagement of others. The cynical view is that this is just pushing it all on the employee or this enables out of touch C-level executives to say, “It’s their fault not ours!”

As we are learning from the peer-recognition movement, you don’t need a title or direct reports to be a leader, and everyone can contribute to a culture of full engagement.

How to Kick Butt at Your Next Job Interview


I am terrible at interviews. I get nervous, lose my train of thought, say awkward things and have trouble forming coherent sentences. The usual comfortableness I feel with others fades away as soon as the torrent of questions begins to weaken my resolve. If I’m lucky, what I say will at least sound intelligent, even if it doesn’t make any sense. Especially between all the um’s and awkward silences.

In an effort to overcome this, I decided to research ways to excel at interviews, as well as asking friends for their advice on what has worked for them. Hopefully my findings can help others who experience the same kind of painful interviewing experiences that I do. Here are some tips broken down into a comprehensive, numerically descending list (because I love making lists):

5. “My advice to someone would be to know the company you are interviewing with. Do your homework on that company.” – Arla Boss

It is imperative to know exactly who you are working for. If they start asking you questions about their company and you have no answers because you didn’t do your research, it may seem like you just don’t care. Trust me, I’ve had it happen, and it’s embarrassing. Employers want to hire people who care about their company and share the same values. Being prepared is essential.

4. “Above everything, show that the two things you care about most are accomplishing the task at hand, and meshing well with your fellow coworkers. Managerial staff always look for those two things when they are hiring a new employee. Will they get the job done effectively and on time? And will they cause a problem with other employees?” -Riley Milligan, Sales Director at Seattle Athletic Club

While it is important to have the necessary qualifications to perform the tasks and duties asked of you, it is just as important to be a team-player and get along well with others. No one wants to hire someone with a crummy attitude, even if their resume is stacked with skills and degrees. It is important to a company and their culture that their employees get along, bounce ideas off each other, and motivate each other. They are looking for the right “cultural fit”. This is the time to let your charming personality shine through!


“What are your strengths and weaknesses?” This is a question interviewers love to ask, and one you should always be prepared to answer. You could try Michael Scott’s technique (see video above), or mention weaknesses that don’t pertain to the position you are applying for. For example, if you are applying to be a graphic designer, you don’t have to be great with numbers. Don’t be fake or dishonest, but try to answer their questions in clever ways.  Think of all the questions they might ask you and prepare your answers in advance. Don’t over-prepare though, you want to sound natural!

2. “In my experience, a large majority of the interview is based not necessarily on the answers you give, but the way you present yourself, self-confidence, grooming, attire, and personality. You are in a way advertising yourself and your capabilities. Show them what you have to bring to the table that your competition doesn’t.”

– Sarah Taylor

Confidence is key. This is a problem that I struggle with, but with more interviews and more practice, it gets better. Employers don’t want someone who is unsure of what they’re doing, or even unsure of themselves. They want someone who is willing to take the reins and perform. When you are at an interview, you are essentially selling yourself. “Dress for success” is a common term, but one that is so true. If you go in looking like you sleep in a cardboard box in an alley way, then you probably won’t make a very good impression. Be creative, and be memorable! Employers usually interview many people for a position, and it’s easy for them to forget the people who were ordinary. Make a great first impression and show them that you are in demand. Rather than be desperate to get the job, they should be desperate to hire you for the job. Show them that you aren’t ordinary, but extraordinary!


This is the most common advice I hear, and probably the easiest to accomplish (unless you hate smiling, then you clearly have other issues). Be friendly and warm. Make eye contact. Be a person that people will want to work with. If you go through the whole interview looking like you are miserable, they definitely will not hire you. If you are applying for a job in the customer service industry, be sure to amp up the smiles and energy! But like I said before, don’t overdo it. Be natural.

And most importantly, be yourself. If that doesn’t work, then you probably don’t want to work for them anyway. The right place for you is where you will be accepted and where your talents will be appreciated. Don’t settle for anything less than what you deserve.

Engaging employees like it’s 1974



Are your managers still sitting down with your employees once a year to review performance and set goals? Many of your employees have grown up in a “Facebook-Twitter-Instagram world” where immediate feedback is available.

Post a picture, get a like. Change your status, get a comment. If you thought social was all about someone, something or somewhere else, you are wrong. We live in a social world and companies who embrace rather than resist social are more successful and have lower levels of employee voluntary turnover.

The social era isn’t about more management responsibility. It’s about making feedback and recognition everyone’s responsibility, making it timely, and based on performance and behavior that align with company goals and mission.  Just showing up to get your five year service pin is a fail for both the business and employee.


The Millennial Search for Identity


“The fact of being who a person is”

When researching the topic of identity, I came upon this disappointing definition. I was hoping for something a little more specific, but soon realized that the concept of identity is not an easy one to explain as it can mean something different for everyone. “Who am I?” is a question humans have been asking themselves for centuries, and is one that can have many answers.

I remember going to a new school in the 4th grade. I was a shy kid, but eager to make new friends. Back then, the only social networking site available was the playground, where content of character was measured by how hard you went in the dirt. If you wanted to talk to or hang out with a friend outside of school, you memorized their phone number and walked to their house. If you were bored, you explored the neighborhood. It was a peaceful, private existence.

Fast forward 15 years. Everyone has smart phones, and Facebook rules the social media world. People have multiple online profiles where they can share life events, upload pictures, and connect with friends and strangers all over the world. There are endless ways to interact and communicate, whether through texting, Skype, Instagram, Snapchat, Voxer, or even online social games. Anyone that didn’t have a voice before now has a chance to be heard.

Though we are fortunate to have much more convenient means of communicating and reaching each other, it does not come without a price. Privacy is such an issue, that even with the availability of “privacy settings”, nothing you post online will ever truly be private. Plus, everyone (well at least everyone on your friends list) can see you, your pictures, what you’re doing, what you like, and nearly everything about you. As you are propelled into the spotlight, you might lose sight of yourself and who you really are. Are you the person you portray yourself to be online? Do you even know who you really are, offline, in person?

In an article published by Deseret News, Rachel Lowry explores this struggle and how it has particularly been affecting Generation Y.

“1 out of 4 Millennials say they can only be their true self when alone.”

Whether you are going to work, school, or just hanging out with friends, you put on a different face. The person you are at work, especially if you work in a very professional environment, can be much different than the person you are when you are with close friends or family. In addition to that, you may also have a separate online identity that doesn’t fully correspond to your other identities. With Facebook, for example, you can tell people what you want them to know, withhold what you don’t want them to know, and show them what you want them to see.

 “Only half of Millennials surveyed believed themselves to be authentic and real.”

Although some people may remain authentic and true to themselves, it is easy to get caught up with “likes” and building up a flattering image. No one wants to appear boring or uninteresting. As a result, it’s becoming more and more difficult to know who is telling the truth, and if people really are who they say they are. I know that I personally have talked to people online and when I met them in person, they didn’t turn out to be who I imagined them to be. Sometimes, they don’t even look how you thought they would look. It all becomes very confusing, so what do we do about it?

If you are a Millennial like me, I understand your hardship. As I described earlier, we never had any of this technology when we were young, and then were suddenly expected to change with the times.  Social networks have become like a drug to us as we constantly search for acceptance and inclusion. The popularity contests of high school have carried over into our adult lives.

“Perhaps we should lift our eyes from our screens more often and live the lives we are purporting.”

This is the best way to go about your journey of self-discovery. Do not just spend time talking about your hopes and dreams, go out and follow them! Instead of spending all of your time taking pictures and uploading them to Instagram and Facebook, experience what you are seeing and doing and embrace the feelings it gives you. It’s great to have memories, but work on accumulating memories that no one can see or feel but you. Memories that you can dig up from your mind and feel all over again because you were fully aware and present during those moments. Get out of your comfort zone and do something you have never done before. Open your mind to new possibilities. Then, after you’ve got that out of your system, feel free to share your experiences and newly acquired knowledge with friends.

Identity isn’t about trying to be who you wish you could be, but how you go about being the person that you are. Every action you take and every decision you make reflects on your character and your personality. In order to be satisfied with your identity, it is important to always stay true to your values and do what you think is right. Maintaining the right balance is not uncomplicated, but at those moments you do find it, hold on as long as you can. Never be afraid to be yourself and to take the less trodden path, you might never know what new things you might discover about yourself. As they say, life is what you make it.

The Top 5 Reasons Companies Should Care About Culture

Mark Rothko

In the Harvard Business Review Article, What Is Organizational Culture? And Why Should We Care?  Michael Watkin’s offers many great views from executives on company culture. A lively Linkedin group thread followed in response to the article. Previously we have discussed some of the best company cultures. Every day we see companies build their cultures by reinforcing their core values through peer recognition programs.

Now let’s understand the “why” behind culture and the top 5 reasons a company should care about corporate culture:

1. Culture is the organization’s immune system

Culture is a form of protection that has evolved from situational pressures. It prevents “wrong thinking” and “wrong people” from entering the organization in the first place. It says that organizational culture functions much like the human immune system in preventing viruses and bacteria from taking hold and damaging the body. The problem, of course, is that organizational immune systems also can attack agents of needed change, and this has important implications for on-boarding and integrating people into organizations

-Michael Watkins, cofounder of Genesis Advisers, and author of the new, updated and expanded edition of The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter

2. Culture touches everything
Culture is important, always has been and it will continue to be. Its interesting, the first time you walk into the lobby of an organization you feel something.   Culture defines everything: job design, org design, practices and policies, mission and values, and last but not least leadership behavior. All of these things working together define the culture of the organization and impact the way that people behave and the way that they feel about their organization. It will impact productivity, product and service quality, the customer experience, the turnover rate, the rate of absenteeism, and the reasons for absenteeism. It touches everything. That’s why you should care.

-Michael Kosec, General Manager at Employee Survey Toolkit

3. True culture is what goes on when no one is watching
Culture is what your people have bought into because they believe in it… not because they’ve been told to, but because it resonates with what they respect and value and what they see in others whom them are inspired by. Find out the real culture in your business by listening on the quietest day of the week or day part…. True culture is what goes on while no one’s watching.

-Caryn Gwilliam, U.K. Head of Human Resources at T.G.I. Friday’s, Carlson Hospitality

4. Culture defines your brand
I care about culture because it defines your brand and can be the difference between success and failure. Values and behaviours should fit with the Company vision. They should become something that supports the company’s ultimate purpose. As a leader I want to create a culture where results focused people thrive.

-Sonia Limm, Area Benefits Supervisor, Compass Point Business Services

5. Well defined cultures provide guidance to the workforce
I care about culture because it is the single most powerful attribute contained within an organization. It articulates, through behavior and actions, what the company is really all about. Well defined cultures provide guidance to the workforce surrounding all aspects of interactions between employees, customers, investors, and the community. Values driven cultures offer this guidance through statements of what’s important to the organization that transcends specific products or services delivered in the marketplace.

-John Bushfield, Senior Consultant at The Mulling Corporation

Thanks to everyone above for sharing your fantastic insights.  If you have an additional reason a company should or should not care about their culture please respond in the comments section below.

Senior Executives Worst At Giving Recognition

In a recent study conducted by Globoforce and SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) shows  senior executives and human resources scoring the lowest marks for giving recognition.  This confirms our own data that shows that top-down recognition programs need to be reinforced with peer-driven recognition, giving every employee the power of appreciation.

Screen Shot 2013-06-06 at 5.51.30 AM
The survey was based on 803 HR professional respondents from a randomly selected sample of SHRM’s membership with the title of manager or above and from organizations with 500 or more employees.  The study was conducted March of 2013 and has a margin of error of +/- 3%.

Other key findings include:

  • Nearly half of HR professionals indicated “employee engagement” as the No. 1 HR challenge their organization faces. Other common HR challenges included “succession planning” (39%), “culture management” (35%), and “employee retention/turnover” (33%).
  • An overwhelming number of organizations (94%) believe positive feedback (reinforcing behaviors or performances that should be repeated) has a greater impact on improving employee performance.

Nice work on this Globoforce and SHRM!  Here is the full presentation:

The Business Case For Employee Engagement

With employee engagement declining in North America, the next question to ask is the toll and cost this disturbing trend is having on business.  The bottom line, low employee engagement may be costing you $6k per employee.

Halogen Software recently shared this infographic outlining the “dollars and cents of employee engagement”.  What I really enjoyed is the excellent write-up and analysis provided by Dominique Jones of Halogen providing both context, 3rd party research and a set of solid assumptions.  Dominique is the VP of HR for Halogen and I look forward to reading more great posts from her.

In her analysis she shows how a company with 500 employees may be losing $3m dollars per year due to poor employee engagement.  That’s a lot of coin not falling to the bottom line, $6,000 per employee.

There is hope with 76% of employees showing improvements in engagement with intervention.  One of the easiest things a company can do to engage employees is to implement a peer-based recognition program.  We have seen rates of +90% voluntary employee participation in these programs that get the whole team fired up.

I highly recommend your check out Dominque’s post to understand the logic and numbers behind the picture below.

The Dollars and Sense of Employee Engagement



The 4 Pillars Of A Great Corporate Culture

Vungle's Honeybadger award on MeritShare

Vungle’s Honeybadger award on MeritShare

A well-established corporate culture plays a significant role in the betterment of a company or organization; this intuitive fact is backed by many social science studies on the subject. Author and Professor James L. Heskett suggest that culture makes up 20-30% of the difference in workplace performance when comparing a company with a sound culture against one without it.

Exactly what makes up a corporate culture? They are all very unique in their own way and often have different belief systems in place. When considering various successful companies and their culture, there are several elements of similarity. Here are some of components to think about in building a well-established culture condensed from the HBR article “Six Components Of A Great Culture” along with some of our own case studies and experiences.

1. Vision: An outstanding culture is built upon the foundation of a well-developed vision and mission statement that provides a purpose. This blueprint effectively guides and directs all employees’ decisions. Deeply rooted and well thought out core mission statement not only shapes the decisions of the employees, they can also positively influence the decisions and actions of other involved stakeholders such as suppliers, and customers. Some very effective vision statements are such as The Alzheimer’s Association stating “a world without Alzheimer’s,” or Oxfam stating “a just world without poverty.”

2. Values: The values of a company are the meat and potatoes of its culture. The values offer a mindset, disciplines, and guidelines needed to effectively execute the vision statement; for example, McKinsey & Company has a concise list of values for their employees that help set the standards for colleague treatment, professionalism, and client customer service. Google’s set of values are grounded around the notion, “Don’t be evil,” and “ten things we know to be true.” While many companies have very different methods of implanting company values, they are all practically based on clients, professionalism, and employees.  At the leading independent accounting firm Green Hasson Janks, collaboration is the foundation for their success.  The company reinforces this with peer-based recognition around values of mentorship, team work, and client advocacy.

3. Practices: Values are obviously ineffective unless they are implementing in the practices of a company. If a company conveys that people are their greatest asset, it is apparent that there actions should mirror such a statement, such as investing in their employees in ways that are noticeable to all. The company known as Wegman’s brand themselves with values such as “caring” and “respect,” offering prospects “a job they’ll love.” By actually following through with the relative practices of values, it ranks fifth by Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list. There are some instances where organizational values “flat” the chain of command. During these cases, junior level employees should be included in the resolution discussion without any fear of repercussions whatsoever. Company values should be visible through review material, promotional policy, and deeply embedded into day-to-day operations.

4. Peer Based Recognition: the employee recognition software like we offer on MeritShare is a great way to reinforce and enhance company values. Vungle, a San Francisco based mobile advertising firm funded by Google Ventures, uses persistence as one their primary company values. They created a custom MeritShare award called “The Honey Badger” which enables employees to nominate each other; at the end of each month, founder Zain Jaffer chooses a winner. In complete satisfactions, he states “I love how our team interacts on MeritShare. Our Honey Badge award is a great reinforcement of our values and a fun talking piece to show new recruits our unique culture.”

The above isn’t a complete isn’t meant to be a complete list so please offer your tips and experiences for building a great culture in the comments section below.

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