Madison Performance Group

Can leadership be learned? According to many experts the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, many who have examined how some companies gain a competitive advantage through their leadership programs say not only can you teach leadership, but in many cases you have to.

Think about it for a second. Most managers promoted into leadership positions struggle to produce results on a larger scale. Why? They can’t always shift from driving personal results to effectively leading others. The good ones, on the other hand, move quickly from being self-accountable to developing a mission, selling their strategies and motivating others to follow them.

Managers that underperform don’t always recognize their role in creating the type of workplace climates that nurture results. The best blend flexibility with responsibility; they give their employees goals and then they get out of their way while consistently applauding and recognizing results without micromanaging the small stuff.  This type of management style has proven to be the most effective with today’s class of knowledge driven workers and it’s an aspect of leading that many new managers simply need to learn.

According to the Harvard business review there are six leadership styles. All of them can be effective given a particular set of circumstances and leaders will often vacillate from one to the other depending on a wide range of factors. Hands down the three styles that tend to be the least effective (and frankly the most disruptive) are the ones where a manager demands compliance and sets a rigorous pace that is short on both time and employee buy-in. Conversely, managers who realize that employees are motivated by recognition more than fear and who are focused on building a collegial and democratic environment tend to get both individual and teams to work harder, smarter and faster.

A recent post on LinkedIn talked about the right and wrong reasons for changing jobs. With so many of today’s workers vulnerable to competitive poaching I thought I’d take a look at the article. I’m glad I did.

Inside was a useful “job seekers career grid’ that laid out both the positive and negative motivators that would sway someone to stay or run for the exits.  As I read through each category, it was clear to me that so many of the attributes listed could be enhanced (or addressed) by the timely and frequent use of recognition.

Environmental conditions—whether you are growing as an individual, have a good working relationship with your manager, or believe in and embrace your company’s mission—are factors that influence your long-term feelings about your job. In the article there is a box that lists the situations and feelings one might encounter when we feel that our job is ‘going nowhere’. Things like a work mix that is unsatisfying, a boss that represents personal challenges, or a feeling that the mission is not clear (or important), or even a general sense that you don’t mesh well with the culture you’re in or the values it represents. Fortunately, for employers who want to hold on to their workers all of these conditions can be addressed and corrected through the use of communications, goal setting, rewards and recognition.

In today’s world too many employees “feel” like their work is meaningless and that their careers are going nowhere. Businesses should help employees understand the importance of what they do and reward them for the contributions they make. Do so now and watch how quickly your employees start to feel better about what they do and who they work for.

Important trends impacting the workplace don’t bode well for companies that have not taken proactive measures to secure their share of top talent. The question you should be asking yourself is how prepared are you?

Two of the most important issues businesses are facing today can be best illustrated in these two realities: younger workers are growing into the new majority, while seasoned employees are looking to move on.

Did you know that Millennials (those in their twenties and early thirties) currently make up over one third of the current workforce? In ten years they will represent three out of every four workers available. They have drastically different attitudes toward careers and workplace loyalty. Ask yourself: Do you have the right retention and recognition solution in place designed to attract them to your firm, optimize their contributions and keep them there over time?

Then there is the issue of retaining the top talent you currently have in place. These workers are the keys to many things—customer relationships, industry know-how and internal networks, but many are eyeing the exit.  According to various statistics, I see between 70–84% of employees are open to pitches from headhunters and others promising better working environments.

Retaining top talent, while also attracting millennials, is the key to moving forward for most businesses. But how can you do both and do so efficiently? By engaging Madison, two things come to your table immediately: Consultative design skills along with the most configurable technology in the sector. By combining both you can have a recognition strategy that addresses these critical—but highly diverse—workgroups with a single solution that is as good for one as it is for the other.

I hear of this sometimes, the misinformed executive who thinks recognition is overkill—that it’s not necessary. “My employees are lucky to have jobs,” they shout back.

To them I shout back, “Watch out!” Think your best employees have no options? Some business leaders have been lulled into a false sense of security by what they perceive to be a soft labor market. Consider this: According to NBC News the amount of open, unfilled positions across corporate America has not been this high since 2001—the height of the dotcom boom that generated all kinds of ancillary economic activity.

Currently, there are over 4.1M open positions in the U.S. across a variety of industries, geographic territories and skill sets. Are your employees the professional, white collar type? Well, there are 942,000 vacancies there. Are you in the healthcare space? Your competitors have 693,000 openings. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.

Why are there so many jobs available? Because most companies know they still have a window to be very selective. So much so that they prefer to wait until a rival’s best workers become available.

Feel vulnerable yet?

The top way to hold onto your best employees—to keep them from even entertaining the idea of leaving—is to give them the appreciation, acknowledgement and recognition they deserve (and quite frankly crave).

Studies show that one of the leading reasons people leave one company for another is because they did not feel that their contributions were appreciated at their other job.

My suggestion to bosses who think their employees are lucky to just have a job is to course correct and do so now. Start recognizing your best immediately. Otherwise, you could be looking for a replacement for one of your stars very soon.

We all know that employee engagement drives better business results. It increases an employee’s level of commitment and that translates into better numbers on both the top and bottom lines.  No serious discussion about improving a company’s business performance can be had without including the topic of employee engagement.

Let’s invert the conversation for a second and talk about disengagement. In the “State of the American Workplace”, Gallup calculates that those who are actively disengaged can cost companies big numbers. Up to $550 billion is lost annually in productivity!

Why is that? Well, for starters the disengaged don’t perform at optimal levels. That translates into opportunity costs. They also tend to become the bad apples in the bunch. They are three times more likely to have a damaging influence on co-workers; they miss work more often and they have a negative effect on customers over time.

When you talk about the “returns on recognition”, don’t just focus on the payoffs at the top of the chart. Yes, the numbers associated with highly engaged employees are off the charts, but there are also significant returns at stake when turning a disengaged employee around.

The 2013 Trends in Global Employee Engagement published by AON says that only 24% percent of employees are highly engaged, while 39% are moderately engaged. Here’s the kicker, 20% are considered passive and 17% fall into that dangerous “actively disengaged” category.

When you design your employee rewards and recognition program do not neglect any of these groups. Moving the needle on each segment will provide a significant financial and cultural windfall for you. Not only will you be increasing the net contributions across the employee spectrum but you will also be taking positive steps to silence all the naysayers that lurk on the bottom end of the engagement spectrum.