Is Your HR Department Ready to be Reinvented?


Chief Employee Experience Officer

Chief People Officer

Chief Engagement Officer

These job titles didn’t exist a few short years ago, but now they are a common occurrence in the workplace. But, why?

It appears that all the buzz surrounding the importance of employee engagement has turned HR departments everywhere upside down. They are going mad trying to capture that “secret sauce”, which motivates employees and makes them more collaborative and productive.

So far, many companies have tried exploring different benefit options and employee perks like free gym memberships, free lunches, flexible work policies, and even bring your dog to work days. But, even with all of these perks, there is still a gap, a silo, that is getting in the way of their employee engagement goals.

Sure, employee recognition programs, fun perks, and flexible policies help employees feel appreciated; but real change begins with meaningful everyday interactions and connection to goals. Sadly, “only 40% of employees are well informed on company goals, strategy, and tactics.” The flow of this information is often stifled from reaching lower level employees and they quickly become disjointed from the rest of the company. Gallup’s chief scientist of workplace management, Jim Harter, said that “it comes down to showing people how their work and contributions impact the success of the entire firm. Disengagement starts with having a confusing job.”

To solve this problem, Airbnb has appointed individuals who act as “ground control” to make sure their company’s mission and culture are brought to life everyday. They have dedicated much time and effort into a project called “workplace as an experience”, where their main focus is “tapping into the physical, emotional, intellectual, virtual, and aspirational facets of how an employee is engaged in the workplace.”


workplace as an experience


Airbnb realized that their employees needed an immersive experience with more touch points and more visibility. The problem was, one siloed department couldn’t possibly ensure that experience was taking place for every employee. So, their Chief Human Resource Officer became their Chief Employee Experience Officer, in order to fulfill the vision of an integrated employee work experience. Their hard work paid off too, because 90% of their employees now recommend them as a great place to work! 

So, if your HR department is ready to be reinvented, take notes from the companies who are doing it right, and learn what works best for your employees along the way.

10 Quotes Proving Collaboration Drives Business

People playing with tangled string

Image Source: Getty Images


“Collaboration is the best way to work. It’s the only way to work, really. Everyone’s there because they have a set of skills to offer across the board.” – Antony Starr, actor

People are the heart and center of every business. People working together and applying their individual experience and creativity to team and company goals will drive a business forward. Every interaction that takes place is an opportunity for change, growth, and innovation.


“Effective collaboration is about maximizing time, talent and tools to create value. The old way was the pass-along approach. I do my job and then pass along my work product to you.” – Evan Rosen, author The Culture of Collaboration

Effective teamwork is so valuable. It is the new competitive advantage, which all successful businesses have mastered. Leaders need to dedicate themselves to enabling their people. The result will be greater efficiency all around.


“Politeness is the poison of collaboration” – Edwin Land, cofounder of the Polaroid Corporation

People struggle to be honest and polite at the same time. It is challenging to be graceful about delivering negative feedback, but it is so important to address the negative along with the positive. When a company values transparency and honest communication, it allows collaboration to happen naturally. By rewarding honesty and making people feel safe, they can be their authentic selves without worrying about possible consequences.


“The purpose of life is to collaborate for a common cause; the problem is nobody seems to know what it is.” – Gerhard Gschwandtner CEO of Selling Power

It is so important to relentlessly communicate vision and goals because people who collaborate without understanding “why” waste precious time and energy. Leaders need to link everyday actions back to overall goals, so people understand their true purpose.


“Peering succeeds because it leverages self-organization—a style of production that works more effectively than hierarchical management for certain tasks.”― Don Tapscott, author Wikinomics

Whenever possible, allow people to work autonomously. When people are really in control of their work, they are more accountable and driven to perform. Within a team environment that is more flexible, people can discover their preferred work style. A style which allows them to be the most creative and productive.


“Training often gives people solutions to problems already solved. Collaboration addresses challenges no one has overcome before.” ― Marcia Conner, author The New Social Learning

Every time people come together to share ideas and tackle problems, growth and innovation can happen. Every problem a business encounters is an opportunity, but people must come together and ask the right questions in order to discover and exploit the opportunities that come along.


“The secret is to gang up on the problem, rather than each other.” — Thomas Stallkamp, Former Executive from Chrysler Corporation

Culture plays a huge role in employee moral. A collaborative culture takes the focus away from all the politics which tend to divide people, like job titles, seniority levels, and favoritism.


“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” — Andrew Carnegie, Scottish American Industrialist

Alignment within a complex business is not a random occurrence that happens out of chance or luck. It takes a lot of work to get the right people, working on the right projects, toward the right goals. But, it is worth the effort because alignment is a prerequisite for effective collaboration.


“After mutual respect and understanding are achieved, it is possible to establish real, sincere relationships, which is the foundation of a solid long-term collaboration.” ― Ron Garan, author The Orbital Perspective

Team building is a great way to bring people together to form stronger relationships. Activities which don’t focus on performance outcomes, help people open up so they can grow to understand each other on a deeper, more personal level.


“The organizations of the future will increasingly depend on the creativity of their members to survive. Great Groups offer a new model in which the leader is an equal among Titans. In a truly creative collaboration, work is pleasure, and the only rules and procedures are those that advance the common cause.” – Warren Bennis, author and American Scholar on Leadership

When structure is kept to a minimum, there is more freedom for creative energy to thrive. Some rules, policies, and procedures might be necessary to maintain accountability and order, but stipulations can get in they way and slow you down. We live in a fast-paced world and flat organizations are becoming more and more common, so try to be as flexible as possible.


How to Connect Strategy and Execution



It is a necessary practice to set an intention for what you do.

At the beginning of a yoga class most instructors will tell you to set an intention for your practice so you can get the best outcome for your time. This is actually a simple, yet powerful technique. If you focus on the outcome you wish to achieve before you begin your practice, you are more likely to be satisfied with the end result.

Another example is the game of chess. You can outperform your opponent, if you plan out a strategy and set a specific intention for every move you make. There must be a reason for every decision, otherwise your strategy is weakened.

This concept holds true for decision making and strategy planning in business, as well.

With regards to business decision making, most companies focus all their energy on setting goals because the outcome of a goal is measurable and it can prove ROI. But, this approach lacks inspiration and it is less meaningful to workers who are further removed from the goal’s outcome. Companies need to realize that their intent, which is the deeper meaning behind their goals, is also important. It is the core reason why they set out to do what they do.

“By starting with your intentions, you get right to the source of what you truly want. Intentions are the core and the magic of all of your goals and desires.” – Author Mike Robbins

A well written vision statement can represent company intentions. It can even inspire and empower people by giving them a clear “mental picture – of what an organization wants to achieve”. When effectively communicated and reinforced by leadership, it serves as a very powerful tool to maintain strategy and boost employee engagement. The challenge is that a vision could be so large or abstract that leaders struggle to communicate it and employees struggle to connect with it.

“The essence of communication is intention.” – Werner Erhard

In order to effectively communicate the vision, leaders must break it down into smaller, more digestible pieces, which justify the intent of every goal and every decision. Then, they must communicate how each decision will ultimately satisfy the vision, which requires them to “zoom out” to look at the big picture. These micro and macro explanations give context for why each goal is relevant and important, allowing employees to see the value for themselves.

Although attentive communication can be very challenging to maintain, it is a necessary practice to keep everyone connected and focused on the same outcome.

Employees, especially millennials, need to see and understand the intent behind the strategy in order to effectively execute it. They need a window to their company’s soul.

“The result of bad communication is a disconnection between strategy and execution” – Chuck Martin, former VP at IBM

Intend to connect strategy and execution. Intend to fulfill the vision. Intend to inspire your team by including them in the strategy.   


What Really Drives Employee Engagement?


An employee’s level of engagement will determine the amount of time and effort they exert at work, and it also influences how long they will stay with a company. According to Harvard Business Review, “research has clearly and consistently proved the direct link between employee engagement, customer satisfaction and revenue growth”. So, there is definitely a reason for companies to address this issue, because it directly correlates with overall performance.

The problem with solving the engagement issue is leaders struggle to read through all the noise to come up with a solution because there are too many conflicting explanations for what causes it.  There are a lot of opinions out there, but what about the data?

What does research tell us drives employee engagement?

A Gallup survey called Q12 was formulated to measure actionable workplace elements affecting employee engagement and performance. After several years of interviewing organizations around the world and gathering research, the survey was finalized in the late 1990’s and was comprised of twelve questions. It is no coincidence that out of these twelve carefully selected questions to determine which factors influence employee engagement, at least four of them address whether or not employees feel appreciated, recognized, or at least acknowledged by others at work. That’s one-third of the overall survey!


Whether or not an employee feels recognized will determine their confidence level in a company. Employees need human interaction to feel included, respected, and secure. In order to establish an authentic sense of belonging with their team, they need confirmation from others . Confirmation that their job matters. Confirmation that someone will notice their performance or care about their opinions.

Confirmative communication from a team leader can be the most impactful. As influencers, leaders directly connect employees with company goals, so their reassurance is especially meaningful and powerful. Receiving feedback from a team leader gives employees instant reassurance that their work is creating a noticeable impact on the company. Leaders need to realize that addressing an individual’s work gives them direct proof that their job really matters, and this sense of purpose drives engagement.

Even though leaders can provide meaningful feedback to influence engagement, top down communication should not dominate how an employee interacts with their company.

It is very important to also encourage and facilitate multi-directional communication between coworkers. This is because coworkers have a more personal knowledge of what their team members work on and accomplish day-to-day, so their feedback happens in real time and is more specific. Peer recognition is very useful because it will confirm and clarify each member’s role and responsibility.

Leaders can enable teams to communicate more effectively by providing them with the tools and resources they need to quickly share information, ideas, news, and feedback. Every team needs an outlet for members to express their opinions and give feedback to others without hesitation or delay. Creating an environment which promotes peer-to-peer interaction and captures positive recognition, will help make a lasting impact on employee engagement.

Authentic and consistent communication, from both leadership and peers, will drive employee engagement because it gives people the affirmations they need to feel confident, acknowledged, and valued at work.


Successful Communication is Engaging Communication


Employees are frustrated. Everyday, they are overwhelmed and inundated with a surplus of email correspondence. According to a McKinsey report on “The Social Economy”, employees have to spend one-fourth of their work day reading, answering, and sending email communication.These time-consuming tasks have become such a large portion of their job responsibility that they struggle to get actual work done.

It can take employees “around 16 minutes to refocus on their tasks” after each time they manage emails, making it nearly impossible to stay focused at work.

Email Do Not Disturb

Although email is a great for external point-to-point business communication, it is being overused internally. Coworkers are using email to share documents, invite people to events, share meeting notes, and to discuss important topics. It has become overwhelming to manage team communication and all other business correspondence in the same inbox.

There are more effective ways to communicate and collaborate within a team!

Incorporating the use of more social communication technologies can significantly reduce time spent handling email communication. IBM was able to reduce email traffic by 98 percent after utilizing a social site to post email responses. They claimed the social site helped with information redundancy, “thereby eliminating all the follow-up questions, copying, and forwarding that multiplies e-mail traffic.” Reducing email traffic and incorporating a social and collaborative, communication platform is critical to not only to improve productivity, but also to increase employee engagement.

Social sites automatically create user engagement because they directly ask for our input. When you login to Facebook the first thing you see is a status box where you are asked: “What’s on your mind?”.  Suddenly, we are prompted to voice our thoughts and we are given the expectation that what we say really matters. People can use technology to announce their ideas, opinions, and life updates so they will be heard by others, and this expectation is being brought into the workplace.

If people can quickly reference social technologies to get up to speed and communicate with friends and family, why does communicating at work have to be so frustrating and time consuming?

Facebook and Twitter are engaging communication tools because they give people a voice and create an equal opportunity environment for people to receive social recognition. So, it is only fair to assume that the most effective way to engage an employee is to continually ask them a simple question: “What do you think?”

By providing an online environment where anyone’s ideas are welcomed and recognized, people participate because they are encouraged to and they have something valuable to contribute. This naturally makes the information that is shared more meaningful and engaging for people to discuss.

The communication methods employees use internally should align with their workflow and enable teams to collaborate around valuable information. Unfortunately, email creates disjointed conversations, which make it difficult to maintain transparency and keep everyone informed.

It is time to reconsider how we use email, so we can find a better way to work together virtually!