question archive How can we tie the theories from the article attached below to help effectively lead and manage interns? Article: BUILDING ENGAGEMENT FROM THE GROUND UP By all accounts, the frenzy and stress associated with many jobs today have had crippling effects on people's willingness to bring their best to work — a situation described by an industry commentator as ''a perfect storm for disengagement
How can we tie the theories from the article attached below to help effectively lead and manage interns?
BUILDING ENGAGEMENT FROM THE GROUND UP
By all accounts, the frenzy and stress associated with many jobs today have had crippling effects on people's willingness to bring their best to work — a situation described by an industry commentator as ''a perfect storm for disengagement.'' Although many organizations have implemented programs to keep employees committed and productive, employee engagement remains at an all-time low. According to a 2011 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 99 percent of HR (human resource) leaders anticipate that employee engagement will continue to be a key strategic challenge. It appears to be a significant problem even among ''high potentials'' — rising stars who receive additional care and feeding as they are groomed for success. Indeed, a recent Corporate Executive Board survey found that one-third of high potentials felt disengaged from their organizations, and 12 percent were actively looking for a new job — a figure that will surely grow with economic recovery. Efforts to improve employee engagement typically focus on select populations — generally high potentials and leaders. A May 2010 article in Harvard Business Review by Jean Martin and Conrad Schmidt describes the lengths companies go to in order to keep top talent engaged: for example, Johnson & Johnson handpicks rising stars for multiyear individualized plans centered on extensive leadership development and coaching, while Procter & Gamble channels high potentials into roles that offer strong developmental opportunities. Other companies try to tackle engagement through financial incentives such as profit-sharing plans, but these are generally offered only to the relatively few highly visible leaders or experts whose engagement (or lack thereof) could have an outsized impact on profitability. Evidence continues to mount that such efforts, though well intentioned, often do not live up to expectations. A significant driver is limited scope of these programs; the chosen few reap the rewards while the majority looks on with envy. When directed largely at high potentials or select leaders, such programs touch, at most, 10 percent of an organization's workforce. What about the remaining 90 percent? Why focus on the tip of the iceberg when an organization's performance depends on all employees being more engaged and bringing their best efforts to work every day? Our research over the past decade has uncovered an important means of assessing and influencing employee engagement by analyzing and working through the informal networks of relationships that exist in every organization. Although these networks are often invisible to senior leaders, they have a pervasive influence on most employees' experience of and engagement with work. They are critical to how people find information, solve problems, and capitalize on opportunities. They are paramount to how high performers get their work done and distinguish themselves over time. And they are intimately intertwined with employee satisfaction, well-being, and retention. Our approach combines traditional means of measuring employee engagement with organizational network analysis (ONA) — a rich set of analytical tools used to assess patterns of collaboration throughout an organization. While engagement ratings reveal where employees are (or are not) enthusiastic, committed, and devoted, ONA uncovers their relative influence on colleagues and their position within the organization's collaboration network. Together, they point to two novel means of developing engagement in the workforce: (1) building energizing relationships and (2) identifying and then leveraging informal opinion leaders. Below, we discuss these important and sometimes complementary approaches to improving organizational performance from the ground up.
RELATIONSHIPS Leaders who rely on traditional approaches for motivating employees miss a crucial fact: how we feel at work — and thus how we perform — is driven only partially by roles and reward systems. Our workplace relationships are just as, if not more, important in this regard. Positive interactions with coworkers have been shown to improve emotional, physical, and cognitive well-being. Such energizing interactions also increase organizational commitment and innovation and are a key distinguisher of high performers. Until the development of ONA, leaders often assumed that the dense tangle of interactions among employees was beyond their understanding and influence. Now leaders can use ONA to identify, visualize, and analyze the constellation of interpersonal ties surrounding them. They can use this network view to understand each employee's qualitative impact on engagement throughout an organization's informal structure. We have seen leaders use ONA to map both energizing and de-energizing relationships, and then craft interventions to nurture positive interactions at important points in the network — a sharp contrast to programs that lavish attention only on high potentials. Understanding how employees systematically influence each other's experience of the workplace gives leaders a novel perspective for developing interventions that can have a pervasive impact on engagement. Most of us intuitively understand the importance of energizing interactions. All but an unlucky few have had the experience of being so inspired by an interaction that we redouble our contributions to a worthwhile project. Unfortunately, most of us have also had our enthusiasm squashed by those who focus exclusively on the flaws in a plan, dismiss new ideas, or place their own political interests ahead of good business decisions. Because ONA identifies the most important opportunities for improvement, it helps leaders target development of the specific behaviors that our interviews have revealed to be consistently associated with positive energy. These behaviors can be nurtured through coaching, career development processes, embedding behavioral dimensions in project or team evaluations. A simple five-point self-assessment of energizing behavior can encourage a little introspection and growth in this area: 1. Do you do what you say you are going to address tough issues with integrity? People are energized in the presence of others who stand for something larger than themselves. They allow reservations to fall away and enthusiasm to build when they trust that others will follow through on commitments. 2. Do you see realistic possibilities in conversations and not focus too early or heavily on potential obstacles? People get enthused in the presence of attainable possibilities. Too often de-energizers claim they are just playing the devil's advocate, but they keep ideas from getting off the ground by surfacing problems instead of venturing solutions. 3. Are you mentally and physically engaged in meetings and conversations? Energizers are not necessarily wildly charismatic, but they are always fully presenting conversations. Rather than going through the motions of being engaged — something that is much more transparent than de-energizers think — they show their interest in the person and the topic by bringing themselves fully to an interaction. 4. Are you flexible in your thinking and do you use your expertise appropriately? Too often, experts or leaders destroy energy in their haste to find a solution or demonstrate their knowledge. People want to be a part of something meaningful. Energizers get ideas and sense of purpose in others by drawing them into conversations and projects. 5. When you disagree, do you focus attention on the issue at hand rather than the individual? Energizers are quick to disagree when things go off track, but they do so in a way that does not tie their critique of an idea too tightly to the person who made the suggestion. Their approach allows continued improvement of the idea and avoids marginalizing that person and his or her contribution to the conversation. To see the effect of shifting energizing interactions, consider a five-year transformation effort within one of the world's leading engineering firms. The firm managed hundreds of projects each year, providing services to a wide array of institutions worldwide, including municipalities, government agencies, multinational companies, and military organizations. Although the organization's projects spanned the globe, the company did not operate as a truly global enterprise. It had grown through numerous mergers and had not established consistent processes across the organization, which resulted in inconsistent client experiences and a high cost structure. Over a five-year period, the organization used annual ONAs to become an integrated, global organization. Results were significant: for example, within its IT (information technology) function, costs were reduced by 31 percent between FY 2002 and FY 2008. Despite growth in company head count and increased demands on the function, IT staffing declined 16 percent during this period. Importantly, these efficiencies were accompanied by an increase in customer satisfaction scores, from 93 percent to 99 percent. A crucial part of this effort was building energizing networks of interactions that would boost employees' engagement with and commitment to their work. Each year, leaders asked employees to indicate the degree to which interactions with each of their colleagues typically left them feeling energized, neutral, or de-energized. They used this information to design training, coaching, and behavioral change programs, and extensive team-building exercises — many of which required higher expenditures on travel. The investment paid off: overall, there was a 42 percent increase in energizing ties between 2003 and 2008 and, importantly for innovation and best practice transfer, an increase in energizing ties across locations (28 percent) and functions (34 percent) (see Fig. 1). Interestingly, the 2003 ONA revealed a direct relationship between energy and performance: those rated in the top performance category were much more likely to be considered energizers by their peers. Their networks connected them to significantly more people through mutually energizing relationships, and their contacts expended greater discretionary effort toward the high performers' key initiatives. As a result, these ''energizers'' obtained greater benefit from Building engagement from the ground up 203 their networks and found more opportunities for professional advancement. Using the ''energizing'' network diagram — without names or other identifying information — to communicate the importance and value of energy also helped shared language and set of expectations about workplace interactions. This cultural shift became evident in the development of the organization's Project Management Office (PMO), which was critical to the transition to a truly global organization. One of the first approaches to spread the importance of a project management competency was a series of road shows, many of which were led by a highly energizing (as was apparent in her network diagram) individual whose passion was contagious. The project management methodologies and best practices she championed spread rapidly, yielding measurable improvements in on-time and on-budget performance. On the basis of this experience, leaders concluded that fostering the behaviors that create energy was critical to organizational performance. They included energy as a key area of focus for coaching and mentoring programs at all levels. For example, before team-building sessions, team leaders were coached on ways to leverage their natural energizing qualities and acquire new ones. Employees' energizing behaviors were also a key input to promotion decisions. As a result of this open acknowledgement of the importance of energy, employees came to expect their leaders and peers to be sources of it. This, in turn, had a significant effect on performance and innovation by improving employee engagement. The ONA also revealed that some people in key network positions — and in critical management roles — were deenergizers, exerting a significant negative effect on the engagement of employees around them. Findings from social psychology show that the detrimental impact of negative experiences and interactions is more than twice as strong as the positive effect of energizing experiences. Our own work on networks supports this: we have found that de-energizing ties have a disproportionately large negative impact on people's performance and engagement at work. Just as leaders can use ONA to focus on energizers, they can also use a network view to identify de-energizers and intervene with behavioral coaching and shifts in roles or projects. In the engineering organization, the data showed how the network of de-energizing relationships would shrink disproportionately by helping the people who account for the largest number of de-energizing interactions to become energizers. In this case, a very small number of people accounted for the majority of interactions that were depleting engagement within the organization (in this case, just eight people were responsible for 24 percent of de-energizing ties). Leaders were able drill down to discover who these key influencers were. Some were obvious, either from direct interaction or reputation, but many were surprises. These people had flown under the radar by managing up well, but they were not working with their peers in supportive ways. With a clearer understanding of the negative impact of deenergizes, leaders began to work with them. Individuals whose skills were deemed vital to the organization were offered coaching. When coaching failed to elicit energizing behaviors, these employees were put in roles with fewer relational demands. When even that did not work, they helped de-energizers find positions elsewhere in order to preserve the culture the organization was attempting to develop. Leaders can act on networks that deplete engagement in other ways as well. Consider the plight of the new head of R&D (research and development) for a major consumer products organization, who stepped into the role with tremendous enthusiasm for several initiatives to spur innovation. However, he quickly discovered that he had inherited an organization driven by fear. For reasons ranging from cultural norms to competitive performance management and reward programs to past tyrannical leadership practices, employees were reluctant to advance an idea that was not bulletproof or to explore new initiatives or even interact with people outside their manager's purview. The leader used results from an ONA to identify the hidden de-energizers propagating those norms and then did some Figure 1 Nurturing Engagement Through Network Investments Over Time. 204 R. Cross et al. surprising things: He took them to lunch and encouraged them to take personal risks. He counseled several of them who had become negative not as a product of their personality, but as a result of past interactions. He gave some of them prominent assignments that would be pulled off only if they were able to rally others. The effect was deliberate and dramatic: over several years, the culture of fear shifted to one of engagement and vibrancy. While not all de-energizers made the journey, most did, and learned to change how they interacted with others in a way that had a significant and enduring impact. CULTIVATING ENGAGEMENT THROUGH KEY OPINION LEADERS ONA provides another very important lever for cultivating employee engagement: targeting informal opinion leaders. Of course, formal structure determines in large part which employee is sought out in any organization. We are driven to reach out to people by virtue of the decisions they get to make, the information they hold, and the resources they dole out. But informal relationships are crucial as well. Some people may lack formal authority but possess technical expertise and organizational wisdom, or they may simply be likable and dependable, and so are an important source of help and information. Designing engagement initiatives with these key opinion leaders — and then relying on them and their influential positions in the network to implement the initiatives — is much more effective than focusing only on leaders or high potentials. For example, by using ONA to identify the opinion leaders in a network and then targeting them, leaders in one company found that just four people (9.7 percent of the network) were in 54 percent of all the relationships that existed in the network. Indeed, in many instances the four individuals connected to other people more than once (directly and indirectly), which created a mutually reinforcing effect on engagement. ONA helps drive more effective engagement initiatives by focusing on two categories of informal opinion leaders. First are those we call Central Connectors, who are distinguished by having the most relationships and tend to be important within functions, geographies, hierarchical layers, and expertise domains. These people are critical to engagement efforts because they have ground-level credibility in important subgroups of a network. Second, and equally important, are Brokers, who are central not because of their overall number of ties, but because of their relationships that bridge subgroups; their value to engagement efforts stems from their unique perspective and their legitimacy in distinct domains. Engagement initiatives that work through Central Connectors and Brokers diffuse more thoroughly and rapidly. For example, consider one strongly hierarchical military unit headed by formal leaders who signed off on all major decisions. One would think that working to increase those employees' engagement — whether through spot bonuses, leadership attention, programs, or other initiatives — would be prudent. Yet even in this context we found that efforts targeting a small number of informal opinion leaders touched 475 relationships, and so had impact on 62 percent of the network. In contrast, efforts taken through the formal leaders affected only 289 relationships directly, which represented 41 percent of the network. Across the organizations we have worked with, we have found that informal opinion leaders have two to three times the impact on the network that formal leaders do. Given the disproportionate effect of informal opinion leaders, we have developed analytic approaches that allow us to see and understand their network influence on multiple fronts. Consider a typical Central Connector profile, shown in Fig. 2, which uses disguised data on informal opinion leaders in one of eight units in a professional services organization. The unit was the lynchpin in a transformational change initiative: to drive engagement and collaboration in all units around this core strategic effort, leaders staffed design and implementation teams with informal opinion leaders identified through this analysis. These profiles, which are best-read from left to right, show the degree to which employees are Central Connectors (the most important connectors are at the top). Fig. 2 reveals a number of interesting things about Central Connectors in this unit: First, the second column shows that informal opinion leaders come from different formal levels of the organization. While it is intuitive that executive directors and directors would appear on this list, it was surprising to see the number of individual contributors and managers who played key roles in engaging the workforce. Second, columns 3 through 5 reveal the number of relationships that each Central Connector supports as well as specific skills for which they are sought out (again, disguised). This provides very granular views as to who has expertise and credibility in a given knowledge domain. For example, individual contributors all provide very specific skills to other members of the network, making them vital for the organization's day-to-day workings. Third, the relative scores in column 6 show the degree to which Central Connectors in this unit are engaged. These scores can be derived either from standard engagement questions included in the ONA survey or from tying the company's engagement survey results to the network analysis data. Regardless of approach, the results help us see influential opinion leaders who are either highly engaged or disengaged. The individual contributors mentioned above are clearly vital to the network's health, but they are less engaged than other highly central individuals. Fourth, column 7 shows the percentage of an employee's network that finds that person to be an energizer. Interestingly, in this case the most engaged individuals are also those with the highest percentage of energizing ties. Michelle M. emerges as an important opinion leader: her engagement score is 4, and she is viewed as energizing by 79 percent of her colleagues. Finally, in column 8 we can see the degree to which these people are potentially overloaded and slowing the network down. The score indicates the percentage of people in each employee's network who say they need even more of the person's time in order to hit key goals and deliverables for the coming year. This information can help leaders avoid giving new assignments to people who are already doing too much. Unfortunately, in this case the Building engagement from the ground up 205 Figure 2 Identifying Central Connectors. 206 R. Cross et al. people with the lowest engagement scores also have the highest percentage of individuals who desire greater access to them; being in such an overloaded position seems to have negatively influenced their attitude toward the organization. For example, Jeff A. has the lowest engagement score, a 2, but 85 percent of his colleague's desire greater access to him. However, the most engaged people have a smaller percentage of individuals needing greater access, and so would be valuable contributors to an engagement initiative. Leaders can work with this information in targeted ways to support the development of engagement programs. With knowledge of the social histories of people and groups, there is always a wide range of nuanced actions that become apparent to leaders when they know the people involved. The organizations we have worked with typically focus on three kinds of opinion leaders: (1) highly influential employees who have high engagement scores; (2) highly influential employees who are beginning to become disengaged; and (3) highly influential employees who are disengaged and are negatively influencing engagement efforts. Working Through Highly Influential and Engaged Employees Consider a new leader tapped to run a critical unit in a government agency. This unit comprised very senior individuals who had influence across a critical process flow in procurement and supply chain processes. Problems that required their attention were operationally complex and often very significant in terms of national security. However, given the number of units that relied on this group and the urgency of the requests it received, the unit had fallen into a mode of continual firefighting with little if any recognition of its accomplishments. Not surprisingly, employee engagement was extremely low. The new leader was committed to rectifying the problem, but he was still getting to know the group and so did not know how best to make that happen. Using a version of the scorecard shown in Fig. 2, he was able to home in on a set of informal opinion leaders and then spend time with this group. For example, he discovered Jason, who was not in a formal role of influence but had significant influence within the group, was seen as an energizer, and was not overloaded with demands. Overall, the ONA helped the new leader identify a number of people like Jason whom he would not have spotted from the formal structure. By understanding these employees' issues, providing them with additional support and resources, and cultivating their interest and engagement in his initiatives, the leader found the most influential and positive path toward propagating engagement throughout the organization. While the initiative is a work in progress, this leader has seen improvements. ''The network analysis helped me turbocharge what I did to improve engagement in ways that would have taken me years to do if I had to rely on time and experience to build an understanding of who to work with and through,'' he told us. ''In fact, in several respects I would have been very wrong in how I worked with certain people who put on quite a show for me but were not helpful or a source of influence amongst their colleagues.'' Catching Disengagement Early Identifying highly engaged employees is important but spotting those who are starting to disengage from the organization and their work is also key. Here, overload is a key risk factor. In a global financial services organization, for example, we sought to discover key differences in engagement across a broad number of communities of practice. In most organizations, these communities are voluntary groups that work well only when employee engagement — and so a willingness to give discretionary effort — is high. In comparing just two communities, we found that they differed significantly not in overall engagement levels but in the network profiles of the most engaged individuals. In the first group, there was a U-shaped relationship between network connections and engagement: those who were most and least engaged were the most well known in the group, were the most frequently sought out for information, and were most highly cited by others who needed more access to them. In the second group, a very different pattern emerged: the least engaged individuals were both heavily sought out for information and had many colleagues — indicating that their colleagues needed greater access to them in order to be effective in their work. In Fig. 3, the individuals who occupy the upper right-hand section — those who are clearly the most influential in the network — have significantly lower engagement scores, as indicated by the small bubble size. The greater disengagement that comes with increasing overload is an issue that many organizations miss when adopting Web 2.0 tools or matrix-based structures, which often overload already busy employees. As these key employees become overloaded, they become less engaged with the work of the organization, and their performance suffers. They are also at risk of leaving. This approach for discovering employees who are beginning to disengage is not limited to voluntary groups like communities of practice. Consider a unit within a major pharmaceutical company that was experiencing significant overload after transitioning to a matrix-based structure. This organization had high-end experts who were important sources of information and energy but were swamped with relational demands from inside and outside the unit. In this case, low engagement scores were good indicators of burnout and future departure. But more important, the scores helped the unit's leader determine the point at which network overload began to take hold for most people, and how and where to make adjustments for them as quickly as possible. In the course of examining many firms, we have seen that the least engaged individuals are often supporting many more boundary-spanning ties than those who are highly engaged. The relational and cognitive load that comes from straddling multiple expertise bases, geographies, and functional groups seems to be higher than the load that comes from connecting to groups and individuals who share similar perspectives, histories, and specializations. In one organization, the least engaged individuals had one and half times more ties across functions and locations than did the most engaged people. In addition, the least engaged had 1.3 times more incoming decision ties than the most engaged. Many standard work-redesign efforts today such as matrix-based structures further overload these employees, with an unintended impact on engagement. As leaders seek to create Building engagement from the ground up 207 boundary-less global organizations, their employees often need less connectivity, not more; they need to be buffered from excessive ties, particularly if they are being sought out for routine requests that could be handled in other ways. Redirecting Influential But Disengaged Employees Finally, we come to influential employees who are disengaged and are having or could have a negative impact on their colleagues. For example, in a financial services organization we worked with, the most disengaged individuals tended to be in remote sites (an important issue as the company was decentralizing). These employees had close to twice as many brokering ties as the most engaged people. In the professional services organization described earlier, a critical group of the least engaged people turned out to have 1.3 times more energizing ties, 1.2 times more cross-location ties, and 1.4 times more cross-function or cross-group ties. This is clear evidence that doing a great job at integrating diverse parts of the organization was taxing people heavily. In both cases, working with these employees was critical, given their impact in spreading culture across geography and location. Consider a consumer products manufacturer that had been suffering performance and turnover problems stemming from poor engagement. Leaders found that despite good intentions and healthy investments, the conventional programs they tried had little or no impact. These included a concerted effort to improve communication from senior managers and line managers to employees. Thus, the company tried face-to-face and virtual forums, work-life balance programs, and a range of leadership and employee development initiatives, such as job rotations. Combining network analysis with an engagement assessment helped leaders spot points of engagement and disengagement and so design more effective and targeted interventions. For example, by using network and engagement scores to identify highly influential employees who were either positive or negative influencers, leaders found units with a wide variance in engagement levels and so focused on networks and engagement scores in those units to locate highly influential employees who were either positive or negative influencers. With a little extra attention, management was able to improve their engagement by, for instance, clarifying their roles and priorities, and in some cases increasing available resources for individuals to do their work. Managers also took time to explain to influential employees the firm's plans for their roles and how they could be an important part of the organization's future. Because leaders could not have taken these efforts with the full workforce, the network analysis was crucial in helping them home in on high-potential spots in the network. Employee engagement is clearly suffering in today's tough economic environment. Yet the fix lies not in individual. Ultimately, the efforts we have described can have a more pervasive impact on an organization than traditional initiatives that target leaders or high potentials. Such efforts are also more robust — that is, they are likely to sustain engagement through the economic downturns or other financial setbacks that curtail an organization's ability to work through financial or other formal rewards. By discovering existing patterns of engagement, energy, and influence throughout the organization, leaders can more effectively use their own skills to enhance employee engagement.