My Experience with OfficeVibe, and How It Addresses Employee Engagement

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I feel like I should start this post out stating that I am in no way affiliated with the OfficeVibe product. I simply want to write a review because it’s a pretty cool tool that is currently helping me identify areas of improvement with my team morale. In this article, I go over what the OfficeVibe service is, how it works, and how my team is using it.

What is it?

OfficeVibe is a software service designed specifically for measuring employee engagement. It has all the functionality you would expect. The survey asks specific questions geared towards topics like Health, Economics, Camaraderie, Overall Happiness, etc. And once the data has been collected, the results are packaged up and delivered through customizable reports.

employee-engagement-report
Pulled from OfficeVibe Website

How Does it Work?

OfficeVibe can be used through email, but it also has a plugin for the communication platform Slack. If you are unfamiliar with Slack, that is another post for another time, but in a nutshell; Slack is a persistent messaging platform built for quick collaboration and efficient communication.

Slack also allows for Bots (Artificial Intelligence) to interface with it. This means independent software companies can program tools into the communication platform. That’s how OfficeVibe built their system. The bot they designed helps users take the quick survey by interacting with them inside the Slack platform. So, when I open Slack to interact with my team, I may see a message pending from the OfficeVibe bot containing my survey question. Having a native interface like this makes the survey questions easy to respond to.

slack-leo-landing-og-image

If you don’t have slack, the email version works similarly. Instead of reaching out through Slack, the questions are emailed to the employee with a link to respond.

What makes this service different from other engagement services, is that OfficeVibe is set up to track a persistent and near real-time pulse of your team. It’s designed to address one of the biggest pitfalls typical Engagement Surveys have: Time/Cost (See my previous posts about short comings).

It does this by giving smaller surveys (1-5 questions) on a more frequent basis (1-2 weeks). This helps the person responsible for team engagement know what the team engagement level is at any given time. You can now monitor your teams stress levels throughout the year.

An added benefit of the near real-time results is that you now get instant feedback on engagement efforts. Previously it was difficult for me to experiment because I was trying to answer questions like, are the changes we implemented having the desired outcome? Are they making things worse? With this style of feedback loop, I feel like I have more flexibility to experiment and make adjustments quicker.

How we use it

We have OfficeVibe set up to ask 5 questions to everyone each week. The results are anonymous, and the survey is always optional. The questions are given at random, meaning not everyone gets the same questions as their coworkers that week. This provides a healthy spread of engagement area results.

We also have it set up to allow for commented feedback. The anonymity on this section is optional. We have found that the commented feedback is one of the most helpful parts of the survey. So much so, that all team administrators have banned together to respond to every piece of feedback we get. Even if the feedback is short, one of us will reply through the OfficeVibe tool with either clarifying questions or appreciation for the feedback. It’s always good to reinforce positive behavior. The tool helps ensure anonymity throughout the process, so there is no conflict.

We have our custom reports broken out into teams, where we can compare our engagement against the benchmark of other OfficeVibe users. Trophies are given for the level of engagement at any point in time. This gamifies the process and welcomes goal setting. As an organization, we have decided that we are going for Champion status (Top 10%).

benchmark2

Wrap up

For me, OfficeVibe is the answer to the question, “how do I keep a pulse on the happiness and engagement of my team?” I have only been using it for 3 months, but the results have been awesome. Coming from a system where we received engagement results every 2 years, having daily feedback has made this process so much easier.

We are starting the process of experimenting with custom questions as well as going through OfficeVibe’s library of improvement resources. I believe this is going to help my team and me substantially.

I hope this has peaked your interest enough to at least check out the site. If you choose to try it out, I look forward to competing against your team in the benchmarking J. As I said, I’m aiming for their champion trophy, and I am currently at Diamond  (Top 20%).

If you have experience with OfficeVibe or have a different system you would like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you.

 

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Less Than 1/3 of American Employees are Engaged with Work…Where Do You Fall?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

You may be able to tell by now that I truly believe that a leader’s first responsibility is to put their employees in a position to be successful. However, being put in a position for success and being successful is a two-person job. It doesn’t matter the number of opportunities leaders give their people; it’s all for nothing if they lack the motivation to make the most of it. In this article, I plan to discuss the way you can achieve motivation through employee engagement. I also plan to leave you with a few pitfalls I have found with my experience.

Why This is Important

Earl Nightingale said “We are at our very best, and we are happiest when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.” Its hard to find a quote that could better sum up a “why” than this. Simply put, an engaged employee is a motivated employee. Even better, the motivation is intrinsic.

Intrinsic motivation can be way more powerful than motivation out of economics or fear. Intrinsic motivation is the reason why there are so many “it started in their garage” stories in the world. If you want a great example, read about a man named Samuel Pierpont Langley.

A short sum up of the story follows: Samuel Pierpont Langley was trying to build the first machine capable of attaining consistent flight. He was a renowned inventor with a large financial backing, and the best research team money could buy. His competition, two men working on a farm. They were not near as funded nor did they have the team Langley did. Their names were Wilbur and Orville Wright (the Wright Brothers).

The reason most of you know the Wright Brothers instead of Langley is because the Wright Brothers won. They defied the odds and beat out the “top dog” team. This story highlights the power intrinsic motivation has while in the arena against fame and money.

1903_first_flightThis is exactly the reason that companies are caring more about the engagement level of their employees. It’s even to the point that companies are hiring independent consultant groups to come in and conduct thorough Employee Engagement Surveys. They are taking the chance to invest in employee engagement because they know the potential benefits they will see in return.

Speaking on behalf of the employee for a second, my company conducts employee engagement surveys, and even the act itself is a motivating force. Just the display of caring gives me a small sense of happiness.

Some Problems I’ve Ran Into

Now that I have talked up Employee Engagement, I need to switch gears a bit and share a few pitfalls that I have seen with some employee engagement efforts.

There are two main problems that I have with standard Employee Engagement Surveys; Closed door action item lists, and the overall cost of the survey. So first, I’d like to explain what I mean by closed door action items.

When we have received these surveys in the past, the responsibilities have been separated by data submission (the employee) and data analysis (the supervisors/executives). When the results are published, the data analysis begins at the highest level to come up with an action plan to increase engagement across the workforce. Despite the best intentions of management, the resulting list will usually be a list of our most thoughtful guesses.

We sometimes think that since our employees took the time to give us the feedback we need to respond with a decisive plan to show that we are listening. The problem with this tactic is that we may have missed the mark. There is no guarantee that the correct diagnosis was made.

For this to work, we need to start building the action plan with the ground floor employees, to make sure we are on track. Otherwise, we put ourselves in a situation where we have to wait until the next survey to see if we were successful in increasing engagement at a significant level.

This brings me to the next issue, cost. Because these surveys require both time and money, they are typically only given annually, bi-annually, or even less frequently. So if you did your closed door session, it might take years for you to know if your actions worked. Because of the time and money needed for these surveys, it’s not practical to experiment. So it’s possible to have wasted years of effort because there is not a cheap way to get feedback along the way.

Wrap up

Despite these two problems we have run into, we are actively finding ways to build action plans by working with the ground and giving lighter weight engagement surveys at a faster rate. My next post will talk about the software we use and how it is helping in our effort. This is a very important topic and one that I hope keeps growing.

If you have any experience with employee engagement, please feel free to use the comments to share. I hope you enjoyed the content and make sure to look for my next post regarding some of the things I’m doing to increase my team’s engagement.

 

Further Reading:Top Eight Reasons Employee Engagement is Important

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4 Reasons I Recommend the DevIntersection Conference

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The big Dev Intersection conference is a few weeks away. If you’re not familiar, it’s a development conference sponsored by several large software companies. They bring industry experts together to conduct a 3-day learning session about mostly everything relevant in the development world today. The tracks range from Visual Studio, SQL, SharePoint, Azure, Office 365, etc. If you are considering the conference, I would like to share four things that I experienced when I attended.

1) The Keynotes

The 2016 Spring Conference keynotes were Scott Guthrie (Exec VP of Microsoft), Scott Hanselman (Microsoft Principal Architect), Douglas Crockford (Helped develop JavaScript), and Dan Holme (CEO of IT Utility). And this lineup was truly awesome. Each speaker was prepared and had something relevant to say. Almost everyone had a demo that was designed to inspire and excite. For example, Scott Hanselman installed the new Visual Studio on the computer of an attendee. It only took 60 seconds, and the entire room started cheering (If you’re not familiar with Visual Studio, it usually installs for hours). Each speaker brought something unique to the conference and truly represented as experts in their field.

2) The Dozens of Speakers

The conference is mostly breakout sessions, so aside from the Keynotes, there are a lot of speakers to talk about a wide variety of topics. I went to 10 different sessions and saw 7 speakers total. And I though each speaker was well prepared with great content. Each session was designed for the time slot, and all speakers left time for thorough QA. I was able to get contact information from each as they all welcomed follow-up questions. I felt the conference picked qualified professionals that were passionate about their topics.

 

3) The Workshops

Workshops are an extra expense to the conference, but if you can do these, I would recommend them. They are all day sessions where you get to dig deeply into a development practice. The teachers bring great examples as well as “code along with me” exercises for those who brought their development machines (which was everyone at the conference). I was able to attend two sessions, The Zen of Architecture by Juval Lowy and Making the Jump to Typescript by John Papa and Dan Wahlin. They were great, but they had more than a dozen to choose from. Some of my biggest takeaways came from these two workshops, so if you have the funds to go, I recommend spending the money. You won’t regret it.

 

4) The Sessions

I have spent a lot of time talking about the speakers and their ability to create good content, but I should mention that there are nearly 100 different sessions. The topics span from SQL development to new Angular 2 interfaces. In back to back sessions, I went from a Project Management topic to a UX session that not only talked about how to identify good UX, but how to convince your company to let you invest in it. It would be very surprising if you were unable to find something of interest at this conference.

Wrap Up

As I stated in the title, I completely recommend this conference. When you plan your yearly training, it’s easy to get seduced by the Microsoft Ignite or Build conferences, but Dev Intersection deserves consideration. Don’t get me wrong, Ignite and Build are great too, but there are differences in these conferences. One difference is that even though it isn’t a Microsoft event, it’s mainly geared towards developing on or within Microsoft tools. But I would say the biggest difference between Dev and Ignite/Build, is that everything Dev talked about can be done today. Where Ignite is more about the future, when you are learn something at Dev, you can go to your hotel and start programming that night.

I hope you enjoyed the review. Please feel free to share your experience in the comments below.

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CEOs…Please Read

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Normally when I write, I share topics that I have either read about or done myself. Today, I want to talk about something from the perspective of a front-line employee. This was something I witnessed from our new CEO, and how he interacted with a risky innovation that my boss (not the CEO) was involved in. This is an amazing real life example of how I hope to model my leadership, simply because I know how it made me feel as a follower.

Story

For context, the company I work for recently changed CEOs. It is going extremely well, yet everyone is still taking the necessary time to adjust to the new regime.

Earlier this year, my boss and several other colleagues started a community around a companywide initiative. At a high level, their goal was to start a monthly platform where employees could come together to share ideas (see Share Your Ideas for more info on what this looks like). This was an employee-driven effort, so the team didn’t have sponsorship from senior staff yet. Senior staff had awareness, but not all members bought into the idea. In fact, some were completely against it at both the senior staff and employee levels. So, the pressure for success was higher than usual.

Our CEO had very little knowledge about it. He asked my boss to schedule 30 mins of his time to talk more in depth. In that meeting, they discussed the history and what they plan to do with the idea moving forward.

Immediately following the meeting, the CEO wrote an email to my boss stating his stance on this particular initiative. He was in full support of the idea and in turn, encouraged more employee-driven initiatives. The most powerful part of the email, however, was the way he ended it. The last words before his signature were, “I’ve got your back.”

Something awesome happened following this email. That sentence meant so much to my boss that he decided to share it with his team and colleagues. They then went on to share it with their teams and so on. That sentence was obviously very powerful to have permeated through the company so quickly. I am three levels removed from the hierarchy, and I have shared that story on multiple occasions. The reason it was so powerful was that everyone believed it. He instilled trust in the platform team, and everyone gave it back.

Wrap up

I wanted to tell this story to highlight that actions matter. They ripple throughout the company, and when kept positive, you just might see positive results. I mean, look at what one sentence has provoked. He didn’t even say it to me, yet it meant so much that I wanted to blog about it. From the bottom looking up, CEOs set the tone of the company. Their words and their actions simply hit harder. When a CEO can show trust and positivity, their message has a deep motivating quality. As someone near the ground floor, I can vouch that it works.

Recognizing there are many ways to run a company, I only wanted to share my experience with our new CEO. If you would like to share your experience, similar or not, please leave them in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you.

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5 Ways to Structure a One-on-One and Why It’s Important

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I have always been a big proponent of spending time with your employees. In my last post, Gift Your Time, I went into reasons for considering your time as “not your own” when it comes to leading employees. In this post, I plan to define the One on One, talk about why it’s useful, and give some tips on how it should be structured.

What and Why

So what is a One on One? A One on One (or O3) is exactly what it sounds like. It’s time set aside for a one on one meeting between supervisor and employee.  Subject matter can vary from employee growth to home life. It’s an opportunity to strengthen relationships and provide career coaching.

If you are a leader, it could be the most important tool in your toolbox. Here’s why: in a 2014 study conducted by LeadershipIQ, over 32,000 employees were surveyed with regards to the time they got to spend with their leader. In this study, it was found, time with their direct supervisor had a direct correlation with the employee’s engagement. More specifically, the study showed that employees who got more exposure with their direct supervisor felt 29% more inspired, 30% more engaged, 16% more innovative, and 15% more intrinsically motivated. In other words, this study is proof of ROI should you decide to invest your time in your employees.

How

1)      Frequency – The frequency of these meetings are up to you, but there should be a frequency. Make sure to schedule a reoccurring meeting, and make it a priority. I can tell you from experience, if you miss these meetings, your employees will notice and remind you. I schedule with my employees every two weeks, and on the rare occasion I need to reschedule, I always make up a missed session.

2)      Duration – This is also up to you, but make sure this time does not feel rushed. Meeting with your people should feel like quality time, not a task. I started off with 30 mins but quickly learned that my group wanted to talk longer. I now hold 1 hour O3s, and we seem to cover mostly everything.

3)      Structure – Build a structure around the meeting. I usually open up by asking if they have anything specific to talk about. After that, I ask them about their home, work, and their home/work life balance. I like to end with something that promotes their career growth and development by coaching them on a particular behavior. Yours may vary, but this is a good starting point.

4)      Preparation – I always come prepared with talking points for each of my programmers. As the leader of the team, I am also the coach, so I like to make sure I can use this time for professional coaching if needed.

5)      Engagement – I ask all of my developers to be engaged during this time. I request that they bring items to me as this is a mutually beneficial meeting. Rarely do I have instances where they don’t have something to discuss.

I truly believe that this practice is a fantastic way to promote growth for both you and your employees. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read my last post. What are some of your success stories? Please leave them below. Now, go put someone in a position to be successful!

Link to referenced study: Optimal Hours With the Boss

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