Workers Are Mad As Hell: 14 Ways to Increase Employee Engagement

  1. A Message from the President: Workers Are Mad As Hell: 14 Ways to Increase Employee Engagement
  2. Network News and Events
    • Lean Six Sigma Forum (Shakopee) 7/31
    • Learn What Drives Organizational Excellence: 2013 MN Performance Excellence Award Evaluator Application Deadline 7/1
    • Beyond Baldrige: Managing Quality and the Client Experience at IBM Rochester (Rochester) 07/16
    • The Principles of Performance Excellence: Baldrige 101 Workshops (Sioux Falls (7/16), Pierre (7/17), Rapid City (7/18)) 07/16

    • Creating a Great Customer-Inspired Experience (Minneapolis) 09/10

    • No Minneapolis, St. Paul, or Twin Ports PEN in July

  3. Partner Events and News
    • Order 2013-14 Criteria for Performance Excellence
    • What is Charting? — MN Facilitators Network (Minneapolis) 06/27
    • Power Dynamics in Corporate Project Management — PMI (Bloomington) 07/09
    • Proactive Marketing Roundtable — Enterprise Minnesota (Richfield) 08/14

    • Attend the 2013 Baldrige Regional Conferences — (Chicago (9/12), Dallas (9/25))

    A Message From the President: Workers Are Mad As Hell: 14 Ways to Increase Employee Engagement

Yes, I am on Twitter (@LassiterBrian), and truth be told: I monitor business and leadership tweets to get a pulse on “hot” topics for this newsletter (I think they call that “trending” topics). In any event, I have compiled 16 articles from the last 60 days alone on the topic of employee engagement. More precisely: dangerously low levels of US employee engagement.

Here’s why I think this is critically important: you simply cannot have engaged customers without having engaged employees. At least not for long. Organizational excellence begins with having an engaged, competent, empowered workforce – they serve your customers (stakeholders, patients, students, whatever); they manage and improve your core processes; they find ways to reduce waste or increase productivity. In short, they run your enterprise.

But they aren’t happy – in fact, about 70% are disengaged, which impacts most organizations’ outcomes and bottom line…

I’m going to offer 14 tips for improving employee satisfaction and engagement – strategies that leaders and managers at all levels can start using today. But first, I culled through those 16 articles to try to quantify the issue. Here’s what I found:

Gallup, the preeminent authority on all things employee engagement, reports that only 30% of US workers are engaged. Yes, that means 70% are NOT engaged. Disengagement appears to be fairly widespread: in all sizes of organizations (though smaller organizations generally have higher engagement levels than larger), in all parts of the US (interestingly, the south and southeast US have slightly higher engagement levels and the Mid-Atlantic, northeast, and northwest US have the worst), in all industries (though manufacturing, service, and transportation appear to have the lowest engagement), and with all ages (though Millennials and Gen X’ers have generally lower levels of engagement than Baby Boomers and Traditionalists).

In a word, disengagement is pervasive.

The good news: the trend of low engagement has been somewhat stable the last 13 years, aside from a dip from 2008-11, likely attributed to the recession.

But the bad news: low employee engagement is costing US organizations dearly (all according to Gallup):

  • Absenteeism is 37% worse for organizations with disengaged workers compared to engaged.
  • Turnover is 65% worse for organizations in industries considered “low-turnover” and 25% worse in industries with traditionally higher turnover (Dale Carnegie reports that this is costing US companies $11 billion a year).
  • Inventory shrinkage is 28% worse.
  • Safety incidents are 48% higher.
  • For healthcare, patient safe incidents are 41% higher.
  • Product defects are 41% higher.
  • Customer satisfaction is 10% worse.
  • Productivity is 21% worse.
  • Profitability is 22% worse.

In fact, Gallup’s CEO estimates employee disengagement is costing US organizations about a half a TRILLION (with a “T”) dollars a year.

For further proof of the financial impact of engagement, Fast Company reports that businesses with higher employee engagement have enjoyed a 4% higher return than the S&P 500: the Parnassus Workplace Fund (comprised mainly of stocks of companies on the “100 Best Companies to Work For”) has a 9.63% return from April 2005 to January 2013 versus the S&P 500’s 5.53% over the same period. Probably not coincidental.

As Gretchen Gavett of Harvard Business Review says: “If you’re in a workplace in America right now, chances are most of the people around you are pretty checked out.”

So what should leaders do to improve workforce engagement? Well, many things. Here are 14 tips for improving employee satisfaction and engagement – some are sophisticated, but most are very simple. Most come from those 16 articles, and I’ve sourced them in case you want to read more (I have taken the liberty to embellish a bit). Here they are – in no particular order:

  • Let your employees see the big picture. When they know how their small piece fits into the bigger strategy, they’ll feel more motivated to succeed. So involve them in planning (both in creating as well as executing the plan). And communicate, communicate, communicate. As Jim Collins says: “Focus 1% on vision and 99% on alignment.” And as Rosabeth Moss Kanter (of Harvard Business School) says: “If you want everyone to be on the same page, put the page in front of them conveniently and often.” Inc. Magazine
  • Give employees something to believe in and strive for. Make your mission, vision, and values more than just statements: make them integral to what every employee does every day in their own, unique, job roles and functions. Help employees understand when and how they personally contribute to achieving the mission; demonstrate that you trust your employees to be caretakers of your organization’s culture. When employees find purpose in their work, their levels of engagement increase significantly. Derek Irvine.
  • Streamline workflow. Overly-complicated processes, confusing approval procedures, and slow decision-making and communication can really add up and can lead to worker burnout. Leaders should be critical of your current systems: “it’s always been done that way” is not a good enough reason to keep people miserable. Engage your people in eliminating waste, reducing complexity, and streamlining their work. They are closest to the action; get them involved in making their work better, more enjoyable and more effective. American Management Association
  • Match headcount to workload. The downsizing pendulum has swung too far: your people are stretched (I can’t count how many of our members say that they can’t come to our events, not because of money but because of time – they’re overworked, stretched, stressed). It’s time to reduce low value-added tasks or to hire more people to share the load. Wall Street Journal
  • Acknowledge the fallacy of “face time.” Flextime and flexplace make more sense than facetime: they reduce commute time, let folks coordinate and balance work with their family situations, and allow them to match work hours to their individual body rhythms and energy cycles. It also demonstrates that you trust your people to get work done, regardless of where or when. Wall Street Journal
  • Support camaraderie and collegiality. Camaraderie in the workplace can lead to greater job satisfaction and commitment to the organization and doing a job well. Leaders should foster collegiality, help to eliminate toxic and dysfunctional team behaviors, and create opportunities for team members to connect in ways other than on work projects. At Google, the games/toys the company provides allow for entertaining and informal interactions among colleagues. These positive and fun feelings carry over when the colleagues work on projects together. A SHRM study in 2012 found employees’ relationships with their co-workers was the second highest factor related to their connection and commitment to the organization. Leaders may also consider using social contracts – explicit agreements on how team members interact – to help shape positive behaviors within their teams. Harvard Business Review
  • Identify and deal with “problem people.” But there are always challenging employees, so leaders need to identify and manage them differently. Why? Abusive and lazy workers wreak havoc in the workplace, keeping their more productive coworkers on edge, distracted, and resentful. They kill engagement, morale and productivity. Of all the skills employees bring to work, “coping with creeps” should not have to be on the list. Leaders need to identify problem people and put them on notice that their behavior will not be tolerated. Give them help if they need it (e.g. management training, anger management, sensitivity training). But if they don’t shape up, show them the door. In other words: fix them or fire them. Wall Street Journal
  • Foster a culture of gratitude: recognize your people. In every organization and on every team, all employees have an innate desire to feel appreciated and valued by others – their peers and their leadership. In other words: most employees want to do good work, but most employees want to be noticed for doing good work. Celebrate their accomplishments. Reward and recognize their performance. Sometimes, just say “thank you.” It will reinforce the behaviors and outcomes you want more of, and it will build goodwill with your people – it shows that you noticed and that you care. And it doesn’t have to be cash; in fact, oftentimes the most effective recognition has nothing to do with cash rewards. The Lead Change Group offers several examples of creative recognition from leading companies such as Google.
  • Change up the work environment. Your employees spend more time at work than anywhere else, and the repetitiveness can be draining. But there is a simple way to combat this: alter the work environment. Change seating arrangements, and the lighting – anything to help break the monotony of the everyday grind. Better yet, call a meeting and ask your employees, “How can we make this office a better work environment?” American Management Association
  • Tame your technology. Overuse of email, texting, and other forms of communication have people drowning in an ocean of electronic messages and “technostress.” Policies to restrict after hours use are already being implemented by some companies. But good old fashion conversations with employees about work/life balance (about taking time off and pacing themselves), about email etiquette (being mindful of using “cc” and “reply all”), about using meetings or phone conversations when circumstances warrant them, etc. will reduce employee stress and improve employee satisfaction. Wall Street Journal
  • Respect work/life balance and avoid long hours. Research shows that productivity declines after about 40 hours a week. People who work long hours are not only less productive, but are more likely to get less sleep, exercise, and down time. The net result is that they are chronically tired, less efficient, and more stressed, thus forcing them to work longer hours to get their work done. It can also result in illness, absenteeism, general resentment, and sometimes safety risks. In addition, many employees don’t spend their allotted vacation days because they don’t want to appear lazy to the organization. This is not healthy. Your workers need the time to unwind, so they can come back to work refreshed and refocused. Leaders should set and manage expectations of work-life balance, should encourage time off, and should be sensitive to organizational capacity. Leaders should also reward good performance with vacation days, and encourage your high performers to take time off. Leaders should also take time off! This will go a long way in eliminating the stigma that taking time off is a bad thing. Wall Street Journal and American Management Association
  • Develop your people. A study by APA indicated that 70% of employees feel valued at work when they have opportunities for growth and development. While promotion opportunities within companies may sometimes be limited, you can still invest in team members’ professional development through training, assignment to new and interesting projects, participation on task forces, and exposure to new and interesting different areas through cross-training. Employees frequently have skills that extend beyond the position for which the company hired them. Additionally, they typically grow their skills over time. Leveraging these broad skill sets can lead to greater engagement and satisfaction. As Tom Peters says: “The role of leaders is not to create followers, but to create more leaders.” Harvard Business Review
  • Empower your people. Leaders should set vision; measure performance; and reinforce, reward, or redirect as needed; but then get out of the way. Too many leaders micromanage, which undermines trust and sub-optimizes employee performance. Truly empower your people and they will surprise you with their potential.
  • And above all, listen. Leaders need to ask employees how they are doing (at work and personally), remove barriers, and pay attention to the factors that affect their satisfaction and engagement. Every organization is different, and every employee within every organization is different. How in the world can managers know what their people need and want without asking them?! You can use sophisticated tools to gauge their engagement (Gallup’s Q-12, Hewitt, and others), or just have informal discussions – in team meetings and/or one-on-one. You’ll be surprised at what you learn. If you’re able to take action to improve things (or even explain why you might not be able to), your employees’ engagement will increase greatly. Simply because they were asked…and because they were heard.

Having truly engaged employees often is the difference between successful and marginal organizations. So, really, leaders don’t have a choice but to focus on their workers’ needs. But get started today: “It takes three to five years to change an organization,” says Don MacPherson CEO of Modern Survey in a Star Tribune article by Neal St. Anthony on employee engagement last week. “If senior leaders don’t communicate effectively, employees make up their own reality.” And if there’s one theme that runs through those 14 tips above it’s that leaders need employees to help create that reality.

Want to participate in a discussion on this topic?? Visit our LinkedIn group and/or post a comment below!

Yours in Performance Excellence,
Brian S. Lassiter
President, Performance Excellence Network (formerly Minnesota Council for Quality)

Lean Six Sigma Forum (Shakopee) 7/31

The Performance Excellence Network is pleased to announce the next Lean Six Sigma Forum on Wednesday, July 31 from 8AM to 12PM, hosted by Seagate in Shakopee.

The Forum will focus on Seagate’s deployment of Business Excellence (DMAIC, DFSS and Lean Six Sigma), showing how Seagate has integrated the tools with other improvement frameworks like ISO and, more recently, its pursuit of performance excellence using Baldrige.  Seagate will share the lessons it has learned, the results it has achieved, and some actual tools it has developed in its deployment efforts.  After a Q&A discussion, participants will then share in small groups their best practices (Lean, Six Sigma, and other improvement tools), their lessons learned, and seek any guidance and ideas from other organizations using similar tools.

Offered in partnership with the Joseph M. Juran Quality Leadership Center at the Carlson School of Management, the Lean Six Sigma Forum provides a means for leaders and practitioners from organizations using Lean, Six Sigma, and/or other techniques to share knowledge and best practices on successfully using process improvement methods. The Forum is open to the public, but there is a capacity constraint at our host facility.

We look forward to seeing you then!

Cost is $150 for members of PEN ($300 for non-members). To register, email

Learn What Drives Organizational Excellence: 2013 MN Performance Excellence Award Evaluator Application Deadline 7/1

Are you interested in learning more about what makes organizations successful?  Are you interested in helping other organizations — such as schools, hospitals, non-profits, and businesses — around the three-state region improve their performance?  Would you be interested in networking, learning, and sharing with others who feel the same way?

The Performance Excellence Network is seeking candidates for the 2013 Performance Excellence Award Board of Evaluators.  The second of three application deadlines for 2013 is July 1 (the third and final is October 1).

There are many benefits to becoming an Evaluator, such as:

  1. The experience strengthens your understanding of what drives organizational excellence.  The Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence represent a validated set of best practices for organizational excellence – practices that can help your organizations reach higher levels of performance.
  2. Networking with other Evaluators can expand your contacts and form deep relationships with influential leaders and professionals from across the state.  Last year’s Board of Evaluators were about 130 professionals representing all sectors (manufacturing, service, healthcare, education, non-profit, and government), all levels of leadership and all organizational roles (CEOs, presidents, Superintendents, VPs and department/unit leaders, physicians and surgeons, RNs, school teachers, and many other practitioners).
  3. The experience allows you to see “best practices” deployed within another organization – knowledge that you could use back at your organization and/or in your career.
  4. Your contribution helps organizations throughout the region – many of them schools, health care providers, non-profits, public sector agencies, and certainly businesses – improve their performance…simply get better at what they do.  Your participation helps Minnesota, North and South Dakota improve its competitiveness and productivity, and helps create/sustain jobs.
  5. You can develop or refine a set of other professional skills that may help you advance your career – skills such as consensus- and team-building, written communication, verbal communication and interpersonal skills, interviewing, analysis, and systems thinking.
  6. You can earn three hours of undergrad or graduate-level credit through the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin-Stout, for those interested.
  7. We expect a sharp increase in the number of organizations seeking an assessment in 2013, so we are trying to grow the number of Evaluators in our program.  In other words, we need resources this year!
  8. And we have greatly improved our process this year, eliminating significant time for our volunteer Evaluators.

Most Evaluators consider the experience to be among the most valuable of their careers.  In fact, many have claimed that the experience and knowledge gained from this process rivals getting an MBA or advanced business degree.

Applications for “cycle 2” are due July 1 (but the deadline can be extended if you email before July 1).

Evaluators are required to attend Baldrige 101 (new Evaluators) and Baldrige 201 (all Evaluators), and new Evaluators are also required to attend a one-day orientation (mid-Aug or mid-Oct).  Evaluators will then be placed on a team (cycle 2 teams will launch mid-August and Evaluators will attend consensus/training Sept 25-26, and cycle 3 teams will launch mid-November and Evaluators will attend consensus/training Dec 11-12).

We hope that you would consider (re)joining the Board of Evaluators and/or encourage others to do so.  For more information on our Award process, benefits of becoming an Evaluator, or an Evaluator application, please visit or email

Beyond Baldrige: Managing Quality and the Client Experience at IBM Rochester (Rochester) 07/16

IBM Rochester won the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award 23 years ago this fall. A lot has changed at IBM both in Rochester and beyond, but two things have remained the same: IBM’s focus on the customer and focus on quality.

The Performance Excellence Network (formerly the Minnesota Council for Quality) is pleased to welcome David Peter, Client Care Operations Manager, and Diane Mitchell, WW STG Quality Management System Team Lead, both of IBM-Rochester, to our July 16 PEN: ” Beyond Baldrige: One Team’s View of Managing Quality and the Client Experience at IBM Rochester.”

David and Diane will share how changes at IBM have affected quality management at Rochester and the larger IBM team.  They will also discuss what the new corporate emphasis on managing the Client Experience means for the teams in Rochester and IBM in general.  David and Diane will share how IBM Rochester has evolved since 1990, how IBM reacted to the challenge of creating a global quality management system, and how IBM measures and manages client complaints and client satisfaction.

The session is July 16 from 7:30-9:00 AM RCTC.  No cost for members; $30 for non-members.

Space is limited. Please register by contacting (or 507-213-8132).

The Principles of Performance Excellence: Baldrige 101 Workshops (Sioux Falls (7/16), Pierre (7/17), Rapid City (7/18)) 07/16

The need to improve your organization’s performance has perhaps never been greater. This “new normal” we’ve been enjoying the last few years has created a renewed need for improvement and systemic change within all organizations: customers expect more, competent workers are growing scarce, and competition is intensifying. But – with the complexity of organizations – where does one start? How do you know on which processes to focus? And how to do you sustain the improvement over time?

The Performance Excellence Network is pleased to announce a full-day workshop, “The Principles of Performance Excellence: Baldrige 101,” offered three times in South Dakota:

July 16 in Sioux Falls
July 17 in Pierre
July 18 in Rapid City.

All three workshops are 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM.

The Baldrige framework provides a systems perspective for continuous improvement and advancing performance excellence. The Baldrige “Criteria for Performance Excellence” reflects the leading edge of validated management practice, against which any organization can measure itself to identify and prioritize improvement opportunities. The Criteria have been accepted nationally (in fact, internationally) as the standard for achieving and sustaining organizational excellence, and represents a common language for communication and sharing of best practices within and across organizations.

The Baldrige 101 morning session will provide participants with an overview of the Baldrige Program and a discussion of how the Baldrige framework can benefit your organization (or division, department). You’ll learn how organizations — businesses, nonprofits, schools, governmental agencies, and healthcare organizations — are using the framework to improve performance and outcomes. Content focuses on leadership, strategic planning, customer focus, measurement, workforce focus, and operations.  If you believe your organization has room to improve in any of these areas, we are pleased to welcome you to one of the three workshops.

Cost for the full day is $250 for members of PEN ($350 for non-members).

To register, email with your name, organizational affiliation, membership status, and preference on location.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn more about this proven method for continuous improvement, and to network with other leaders/professionals also interested in improving their enterprises.

Creating a Great Customer-Inspired Experience (Minneapolis) 09/10

A great customer experience begins with a solid understanding of your customers.  But it also requires that your employees use those insights to build programs that your competitors cannot duplicate.

The Performance Excellence Network (formerly the Minnesota Council for Quality) is pleased to welcome Jim Tincher, Senior Business Advisor with Satisfaction Management Systems, to a special full-day workshop September 10: “Creating a Great Customer-Inspired Experience.”

Jim will build off of the PEN breakfast earlier this summer, sharing the three keys to build a great customer-inspired experience for your business, and you will pick up actionable steps you can implement literally tomorrow!

Learning objectives for the workshop include:

  • Understanding best practices to monitor your existing experience, including relationship and transactional measurements
  • Determining top priorities for action
  • Developing a customer experience business case for change
  • Leveraging front-line employees to build out your improved customer experience
  • Building customer experience change in your organization
  • Developing and tell stories to drive your change

A great customer experience leads to enhanced loyalty and significantly higher financial returns.  Join this discussion to learn more!

The discussion is from 8:30-4:30 on September 10 at the Art Institute of Minneapolis, downtown.  Cost is $250/person for groups of two or more members (or $300 for single members, $600 for single non-members).

Space is limited so register today by emailing

Order 2013-14 Criteria for Performance Excellence

Validated Best Practices to Improve Your Organization

For 25 years, the Baldrige Criteria have empowered organizations—no matter their size, sector, or industry—to reach their goals, improve results, and become more competitive.

The 2013–2014 Criteria build on this tradition and feature a renewed focus on:

  • innovation management, intelligent risk, and strategic priorities;
  • social media;
  • operational effectiveness; and
  • work systems and core competencies.

Copies of the 2013-14 are now available — $10 for PDF downloads or $25 for hardcopy books.  You may order directly from the Baldrige Program by visiting here or you can order copies through PEN by emailing (a small portion of the proceeds then stay with our program to help us sustain our mission).

The Criteria change every two years by studying organizations that have high performance outcomes relative to relevant benchmarks, and figuring out what those organizations are doing (in terms of process) to achieve and sustain superior performance, and those become future years’ Criteria. As such, the Criteria have become a collection of validated best practices against which any organization can gauge their own performance.

The Criteria are a set of questions about critical aspects of managing and performing as an organization. These questions work together as a unique, integrated performance management framework. Typically, organizations use the Criteria to help diagnose their enterprise – to identify and prioritize improvement opportunities.

The Criteria become the basis of the Performance Excellence Network’s assessments – our comprehensive Performance Excellence Award (formerly MN Quality Award), the consultant-led assessment, and our self-assessment (the quickest, easiest of the three). They are also helpful when used internally by leaders to reflect on current process strengths and gaps.

Order your copy(ies) now by emailing by emailing

What is Charting? — MN Facilitators Network (Minneapolis) 06/27

Please join the MN Facilitators Network, an alliance partner of the Network, for their next meeting June 27: “What is Charting.”  The session will be facilitated by Cheryl Kartes.

The session will be from 5:30-8:30 PM at Bethany Lutheran Church in South Minneapolis.  Session is free (suggested donation $5).  Everyone interested in MFN and facilitation is welcome.  For more information, visit

Power Dynamics in Corporate Project Management — PMI (Bloomington) 07/09

The Minnesota Chapter of Project Management Institute (PMI), an alliance partner of the Performance Excellence Network, is pleased to announce its next breakfast session: “Power Dynamics in Corporate Project Management.”  The session will be held July 9, and will be facilitated byWilliam Bengtson, who has more than 25 years of experience in leadership and program/project management at large corporations across the U.S.

This engaging session outlines the characteristics of power in leadership and stakeholder relationships, illustrates examples of power strategies, and suggests methods for responding to power situations that a project manager, stakeholder or leader is likely to encounter.

Project managers, stakeholders and leaders will walk away with insight to recognize power strategies in relationships and suggested tools to address these strategies for greater success in their projects and initiatives.

The session is July 9 from 7:00-8:50 AM at Crowne Plaza Mpls Airport, 3 Appletree Square, Bloomington, MN 55425.  Cost is $34 ($32.30 for Network members) before June 30 (PEN members should contact for discount code).  For more information, visit

 Proactive Marketing Roundtable — Enterprise Minnesota (Richfield) 08/14

Enterprise Minnesota, a partner of the Performance Excellence Network, is pleased to announce their next upcoming event: “Proactive Marketing Roundtableon Aug 14 (then Sept 11, Oct 9, Nov 13) in Alexandria.

Experience a powerful and integrated approach to marketing, benefit from the ideas and insights of the group, and develop reusable know-how as you apply what you’ve learned in your company. Join a group of up to six manufacturing companies with non-competitive businesses. Four half-day, interactive workshops alternate with individual work sessions for your company. Send up to 4 people, typically including the president and top marketing/sales person.

For more information on this and other programs, click here:

Attend the 2013 Baldrige Regional Conferences — (Chicago (9/12), Dallas (9/25))

Attend the 2013 Baldrige Regional Conferences in Chicago and Dallas for a one-day showcase of Baldrige best practices!

The conferences will be held:

September 12
Chicago, IL
Wyndham Lisle-Chicago Hotel & Executive Meeting Center

September 25
Dallas, TX
Crowne Plaza Dallas Galleria-Addison

Come, learn, network, and engage in a day dedicated to improving your organization’s performance. The exciting conference programs include in-depth plenary session featuring senior executives from the 2012 Baldrige Award recipients, 15 interactive management sessions to choose from, and closing session featuring the leader of a Baldrige Award recipient.

Learn how these role-model organizations achieve high performance and outstanding results in areas such as leadership, strategic planning, customer and workforce focus, operations, innovation, and much more!

An optional Pre-Conference Workshop for Baldrige beginners facilitated by a Baldrige recipient is available the day before each conference.

Sponsorship opportunities are available!

Register now! To learn more, visit the Regional Conferences Webpages.

The conferences are co-sponsored by Illinois Performance Excellence, the Quality Texas Foundation, and the Alliance for Performance Excellence, in which Minnesota’s Performance Excellence Network participates.

For questions about the conferences, contact the Baldrige Program at 301-975-2036 or