Weekly Wrap: Our Goals For Labor Day? They’re Simpler Than You Think

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For those of you TLNT readers who reside in the U.S., you know that Monday’s Labor Day holiday marks the traditional end of the summer season.

But, it also signals an opportunity for any number of workplace-related surveys that are pegged to Labor Day, and the notion that besides giving workers a day of rest and relaxation, we should give them a chance to reflect on workplace issues and their lives on the  job.

That means a lot of research and surveys about all manner of talent management issues.

For example, Globoforce released their Summer 2013 Workforce Mood Tracker survey this week, and it found (and no big surprise here) that satisfaction by employees with their performance reviews correlates with their overall satisfaction on the job.

Inaccuracy fuels unhappiness with performance reviews

The survey also indicated that:

  • 57 percent of respondents don’t feel their current performance review process is an accurate appraisal of their work.
  • 63 percent cite inaccuracy as the top reason for dissatisfaction with their review process, calling it “not a true indication of performance,” and,
  • Among employees who are satisfied with their performance reviews, 83 percent are also satisfied with their job. Comparatively, among employees who are dissatisfied with their review, just 55 percent are satisfied with their job.

In other words, a majority of the workers surveyed aren’t happy with their organization’s performance review process. Nothing seems to be really improving on that front.

The difficulty sustaining organizational change

Another survey, this one from Towers Watson, shows just how difficult it is to drive change in the workplace and make it stick.

The 2013 Towers Watson Change and Communication ROI Survey found that although 55 percent of employers say their change management initiatives (things like program or policy changes, business transformation, and mergers and acquisitions) meet their initial objectives, only 25 percent say they are able to sustain gains from their change management initiatives over the long term.

And why, you might ask, do organizations have such a hard time sustaining change? Well, it seems to be the manager’s fault.

Although nearly nine out of 10 survey respondents (87 percent) say they train their managers to manage change, less than one-fourth of all respondents (22 percent) admit their training is effective.

That’s a pretty sorry number, and it tells you that something in the managerial training process is going terribly wrong.

“Managers are a catalyst for successful change. Now is the ideal time for organizations to look at this lingering problem from a new angle, focusing on the manager’s role. For managers to succeed at spearheading change, companies need to change their approach, train managers more effectively and do a much better job of communicating with them,” said Kathryn Yates, global leader of communication consulting at Towers Watson, in a press release about the survey.

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The problem with employee-employer communications

Yes, communications seem to be at the heart of the problem here, because the Towers Watson research shows that only two-thirds (68 percent) of senior managers say they are getting the message about the reasons behind major organizational decisions. Below the senior management level, the message dwindles further. Only half (53 percent) of middle managers and 40 percent of first-line supervisors say their management does a good job of explaining reasons behind major decision.

I don’t know about you, but the communications issues that crop up during change management (as shown in the Towers Watson study) must surely also be a big issue in the feelings employees have about the broken performance appraisal process, as the Globoforce research shows.

Change management, communications, and performance management are all critical workplace issues that have dominated the discussion at virtually every company I have ever worked for. They are issues for every organization, yet as this research shows, they are issues that are handled badly (or perhaps more correctly, badly executed) pretty much across the board.

That’s what the research says to me.

So as we approach another Labor Day, I’d make a case for managers, executives, HR pros, and organizations everywhere to reflect on what we’re all doing to better support our workers and the environment in which they work.

Rather than looking for some new and cool-sounding initiative to drop on to the organization, maybe we should be looking to get back to the basics of work — communicating well, driving change in a smart and responsible way, and talking to people more succinctly about their performance.

That’s the lesson I’ll take away from Labor Day 2013. Is your lesson all that much different?

Out of office auto emails you love to hate

Of course, there’s more than how to deal with a failed promotion in the news this week. Here are some HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • Is it really possible to have a bossless office? I’ve written before about how I thought the notion of a “bossless” office was ridiculous, but here’s another article from NPR touting what it  claims are the pros (and a few cons) of an egalitarian office environment. It says flatly, with only a few anecdotal examples as support, that “Today, the hierarchical hassles of the modern workplace are starting to fade, with a cultural move toward flat or “bossless” offices. In downtown Ann Arbor, Mich., the takes the flat office to its extreme — at Menlo, there are two co-founders and a CEO, but the team takes charge of budgeting, hiring, firing and making decisions on how to serve the company’s clients.”
  • Wal-Mart giving benefits to same sex workers. Times are changing, and the Los Angeles Times reports that, “Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the largest private employer in the country, plans to start offering health coverage next year to domestic partners of full-time employees – including those in same-sex relationships. … Though spokesman Randy Hargrove said it’s unclear many people may sign up for the program, he said that more than half of the company’s 1.3 million U.S. associates are covered by the retailer’s health insurance plan.”
  • Some CEOs are getting overpaid? Who knew? I’ve always thought that this notion that only a highly select group of people could be CEOs was a giant  load of BS, and now I have some proof that I’m right. As this report from the Kansas City Star points out, “A select group of the nation’s corporate chief executives has been paid far more than their performance warranted, according to a compensation analysis released today. … Nearly 40 percent of the men who appeared on lists ranking America’s 25 highest-paid corporate leaders between 1993 and 2012 have led companies bailed out by U.S. taxpayers, been fired for poor performance or led companies charged with fraud-related activities. “This report should put an end to any remaining sense that we have ‘pay for performance’ in corporate America,” said Sarah Anderson, co-author” of the report.
  • The out of office vacation emails everyone hates. I love this list of The 7 Kind of Email Vacation Auto Responders That Everyone Hates from New York magazine’s Daily Intelligencer blog. See how many you have gotten that are on here. My favorite? It’s the The “Sporadic” Lie, which says “Has there ever been a less true sentence in the English language than “I will be checking email sporadically”? Please. This is the age of the push notification. If you have your phone on you, you’re going to see every email within minutes of its arrival. If you’re going to leave your phone behind while you scale Kilimanjaro/go kayaking/drink caipirinhas in Quogue, you won’t have any email access at all. In 2013, there is no middle ground.”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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