The Enthusiastic Employee

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9780137148707: The Enthusiastic Employee

Enthusiastic employees far out-produce and outperform the average workforce:they step up to do the hard, even 'impossible' jobs.  Most people are enthusiastic when they're hired: hopeful, ready to work hard, eager to contribute. What happens? Management, that's what. The authors tell you what managers do wrong, and what they need to do instead. It's about giving workers what they want most, summarized in the Three-Factor Theory: to be treated fairly; to feel proud of their work and organizations; and to experience camaraderie. Sounds simple, but every manager knows how tough it can be. Nostrums, fads, and quick and easy solutions have abounded in the management literature, but swiftly go out of style when they fail to meet the test in the workplace. The authors provide research-grounded answers to crucial questions such as: Which leadership and management practices can have the greatest positive performance impact? What does employee satisfaction really mean? What's the relationship between employee satisfaction, customer loyalty, and profit? Sirota and his colleagues detail exactly how to create an environment where enthusiasm flourishes and businesses grow.

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About the Author:

David Sirota is founder and Chairman Emeritus of Sirota Consulting, a firm with a national reputation for improving performance by systematically measuring and managing employee, customer, and community relationships. He previously served as IBM director of behavioral science research and application. Sirota has taught management at Cornell, Yale, MIT, and Wharton, and was a study director at the University of Michigan's Institute of Social Research. His work has been featured in Fortune and The New York Times. He holds a doctorate in social psychology from the University of Michigan.

Louis A. Mischkind has been involved with organizational effectiveness–research and practical application–for over 35 years. Prior to joining Sirota Consulting, he was Program Director of Executive Development at IBM, Advisor on Human Resources to the President of IBM's General Products Division, and in charge of opinion surveys and management assessment for IBM's technical community. He has taught courses in social and organizational psychology at New York University and holds a master's degree in experimental psychology from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in organizational psychology from New York University.

Michael Irwin Meltzer joined Sirota Consulting full-time in 2001 as Managing Director, after serving as its General Counsel for 20 years. He has advised businesses ranging from financial consultancies and real estate developers to sales, distribution, and construction organizations. He has also served as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Pace University, teaching business organizations, real-estate law, and trusts and estates. He holds a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School.


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Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Introduction

The impact shook everything for blocks. Fire, charged by thousands of gallons of jet fuel, sucked so much oxygen out of the air around the impact zone that windows in nearby buildings blew out as the towers of the Word Trade Center began to wither and then collapse. On the 32nd floor of the World Financial Center, the offices of Barron's Magazine shook. Computers, office supplies, and equipment flew out the windows. Stunned workers held on for dear life. Then, they carefully made their way out of the building to safety. The editorial and business offices of Barron's Magazine had been almost instantaneously decimated. The damage was so great that it took more than a year to refurbish the offices.

Yet, on September 11, 2001, as people fled the building, Barron's employees had already turned their attention to the task of publishing the magazine on time. Months later, Ed Finn, Barron's Managing Editor, recalled that the attack had not prevented his employees from publishing a full edition of the magazine three days after their offices were destroyed. In fact, the idea of not publishing never even came up; the only question any employee asked was how the team would accomplish it. None of us would want to face the challenges that Barron's--and many, many others--faced that day, but we can all appreciate what the Barron's employees did. We can all agree that most organizations would love to have employees who display that level of enthusiasm for their jobs, their companies, and their colleagues.

This is a book about enthusiastic workers.

Managers at all levels often spend an inordinate amount of time with "difficult" individual employees--employees who are angry, uncooperative, or perhaps neurotically demanding of attention. In fact, the task of dealing with such behavior problems is often perceived as a significant human-resources cost. But, the reality is even worse, because the bigger problem is the vast number of workers who are not openly troublesome, but who have become largely indifferent to the organization and its purposes. This is the greater problem because the troublemakers can be identified and dealt with; the "walking indifferent," however, are silent killers. They have learned to expect not too much and to give not too much. Yet, these workers are normal people with reasonable human wants. Somehow, their human needs are only marginally satisfied, if at all, by the companies for which they work. In return, they give to the companies a mere fraction of what they are capable of contributing. The economic cost of this underutilization to the affected businesses is enormous.

How does a company tackle this problem? One approach is to more closely supervise employees, pressuring them to do more. On a more positive note, other managers treat their workers to a procession of "motivational" speakers, rah-rah events, and programs. Neither approach will do much good--in fact, the former will likely exacerbate the problem. We need to get to the root of the matter, the source of employee indifference, and we need to address it. The real challenge is to turn indifferent workers into enthusiastic workers. The solution might surprise you.

First, we must understand what workers want. Then, we must give it to them!

This might sound absurd to some, a sure road to insolvency. On the contrary, it is a powerful path to business success.

  1. Why do we say this? Because many years of research has established that, surprisingly, little real conflict exists between the goals of the overwhelming majority of workers and those of their employers.

  2. It is a common, but harmful, misconception that people and their organizations are in a natural state of conflict. This book starts by setting the record straight, examining the source of this confusion, and providing a fresh start to understanding what workers really want. We show that the key question is not how to motivate employees, but how to sustain--and prevent management from destroying--the motivation that employees naturally bring to their jobs.

  3. Workers have basic human needs that management can and should work to address. Creating an environment in which these needs are met results not just in satisfied employees, but enthusiastic employees.

  4. What is the basis of human motivation in the workplace? We discuss three key factors of worker motivation and what they mean. We also show the extraordinary effect of successfully addressing all three of these key factors.

  5. Employee enthusiasm--a state of high employee morale that derives from satisfying the three key needs of workers-- results in enormous competitive advantages for those companies with the strength of leadership to manage for real long-term results.

Our proof is the numerous cases that we have collected for more than 30 years of survey research into the effect of employee attitudes on organizational effectiveness. We explore what the data show, illustrating our data with case histories and comments drawn from our extensive research, and we connect the data to business outcomes.1

Asking Questions

How do we claim to know what workers want? It is not by untested hypothesis, imagination, or philosophy. It is not by thinking "out of the box" as the vogue term goes, nor is it by generalizing based on a series of anecdotes. The only real way to learn what's on workers' minds is to ask them! This involves asking them simply and directly using inquiry methods that assure that the results are representative and valid.

Real data are the best antidote against jumping to conclusions based only on personal biases, the latest fad, or anecdotes. By using real data, we know what workers want, why they want it, and what it means.

We have been asking workers questions for more than 30 yearselor, more accurately, a talented group of industrial organizational psychologists at Sirota Consulting, along with the authors, have engaged in employee-attitude research for more than 30 years. In that time, we collected over 4 million survey responses from employees around the word. The data have been collected on various general topics or dimensions of attitudes. Over the course of time, we organized those dimensions into a model that aligns employee attitudes with bottom-line business outcomes.

Asking the Right Questions

Although it is certainly a positive thing that we have collected extensive attitudinal data by actually asking workers about their opinions, we imagine that a few readers are now wondering how we know which questions to ask. The answer to that question requires a little background.

In 1972, David Sirota organized a small business to pursue his mission of improving organization performance through the systematic assessment and management of employee, customer, and community relations. From 1959 through 1972, David was a director of Behavioral Science Research and Application for IBM. There, David's activities included the establishment of IBM's worldwide employee-attitude survey program.

David has a broad industrial and academic background. With a doctorate from the University of Michigan, he was a study director at that University's Institute of Social Research. He now serves on that institute's Board of Advisors. He has taught at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations of Cornell University, at Yale University, the Sloan School of Management of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and as associate professor of management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Co-author Lou Mischkind is, likewise, steeped in survey research, with over 35 years of experience in the field. Prior to joining Sirota Consulting, Lou was the program director of executive development at IBM and special advisor on human resources to the president of the General Products Division. Lou has taught courses in social and organizational psychology at New York University, Santa Clara University, and San Jose State University. He holds his master's degree in experimental psychology from Columbia University and his Ph.D. in organizational psychology from New York University.

Co-author Michael Meltzer comes to the subject from a different background. Michael is a lawyer, practicing business and related law since 1976. He has been an advisor to diverse businesses, including financial consulting, real-estate development, sales and distribution, construction, and business-management companies. Michael also served as an adjunct assistant Professor at Pace University, teaching business organizations, real-estate law and trusts and estates, and he has served as a New York City civil court arbitrator. Michael received a B.A. from The George Washington University in Washington D.C., in 1972, and a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School in 1975.

As David's reputation grew, both for superior research and for an ability to collect meaningful data that could be used for real business improvement, the small business expanded into an internationally known and respected consultancy. Sirota Consulting is now one of the larger independent privately owned companies in the U.S. that specializes in organization survey research. Sirota consultants have conducted a wide variety of surveys for hundreds of organizations around the world. The company's mission remains much the same as it was when David first started it: to use survey data to help organizations build strong, productive relationships with its key constituencies such as employees, customers, suppliers, communities, investors, opinion leaders, and the public at large.

Our experience, although extensive, is not the only basis for the statement that we have asked the right questions. The research done by Sirota Consultants over the years has followed a widely accepted...

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