Fostering the Strategic Employee Lifecycle

The key is to intertwine helping employees develop and use their unique talents with the overall goal of making the company more successful.

Today’s business landscape requires that companies foster the development of new ideas, tap into critical employee thinking and knowledge, and enable the synergy of teams to revolutionize their existing business in order to establish an effective roadmap for a strategic employee lifecycle.

Economic change also is driving an increasing need for organizations to adjust quickly and proficiently to dynamic market conditions. How companies and their leaders manage change and engage their employees in the process can significantly affect their ability to achieve strategic business objectives. While the strategy and objectives behind change initiatives may differ from one organization to another, all companies must learn to effectively manage the change that is necessary for growth and survival.

Some organizations are inclined to undervalue the importance of managing change effectively through the people (employees) who build, execute, and recognize change initiatives—inevitably undermining their ability to achieve the goals the change initiative was designed to produce. Effective change management requires identifying and developing employee behaviors, attitudes, and practices that support change and to do so in a systemic way. If this is not captured, it can lead to reduced productivity, decreased levels of trust, declines in engagement scores, and poor talent attraction. The strong correlation between effective change management and high levels of employee engagement—which affects productivity and performance—is key.

Traditional coaching—with its annual reviews for measuring success—often is viewed as a clichéd afterthought. Today’s coaching follows a more collaborative process for performance improvement. It creates a partnership in which the coach and the employee engage in two-way conversations that encourage the employee to share ideas, concerns, and experiences that apply to his or her day-to-day work. This type of coaching also helps employees take ownership over their learning and create a culture of accountability. Imagine if a football team coach only trained the first quarter of the game; the same is true with employee development.

At Elavon, we create an atmosphere in which employees are empowered to reach their desired level of accomplishment. Our approach to coaching provides employees the opportunity to grow and achieve optimal performance through consistent feedback, counseling, and mentoring. Rather than relying solely on a review schedule, employees are afforded a pathway for success. We view the goal of coaching as a means to align individual development with the business needs. We intertwine helping our employees develop and use their unique talents with the overall goal of making the company more successful. If an employee accomplished a task that helped our business meet its goals, it, of course, would serve as an ideal time to offer encouraging feedback on specific details on the outcomes and tie them to our key organizational goals. In business, coaching can be described as a relationship in which the key responsibility of the coach is to cultivate a deep understanding of the person being coached, and then, based upon that understanding, modify his or her actions to guide the employee toward attaining his or her greatest potential while simultaneously making a positive impact on the company as a whole.

Here is an example of how Elavon initiates our style of coaching conversations for performance and to assist in developing the employee’s strategic lifecycle.

In May 2013, Elavon partnered with Aubrey Daniels International to aid in accelerating the company’s business performance through positive, practical approaches grounded in the science of behavior and engineered to ensure long-term sustainability.

Elavon used applied behavioral analysis to drive the results where performance management adopted a new context. The coach was able to apply principles that justified how learning takes place through positive reinforcement. When a behavior is followed by some sort of reward, the behavior is more likely to be repeated. The idea was to help our coaches or anyone who desired to increase their performance to do so. This was done by intentionally providing frequent opportunities for that positive reinforcement.

After completing certification in the Precision Leadership course offered by Aubrey Daniels International, Leslie McLeroy, Elavon’s senior director for Dispute Resolution, sought to positively affect her team’s coaching culture by using positive reinforcement. After specifically pinpointing the desired results from each employee, Leslie and her team decided to test the applied behavior analysis theory with a performance activity. The emphasis was not on a goal; the emphasis was on what could be done to create an environment focused on a specific behavior that positively affected the results when acted out consistently. As a result, there was a 46 percent increase in productivity during a five-day test period, and an increase in average group productivity from 81 percent to 119 percent.

If an organization wants to improve employee skills to increase morale, productivity, performance, and engagement, it helps to understand the uniqueness of employees’ behavior as each has different skills, levels of understanding, responsibilities, and objectives. Developing a tailored approach allows employees to feel more empowered and better able to connect what they learn to their own personal objectives.

People do not become engaged at work merely because they get paid a lot, or because they have a fast computer, a nice cafeteria, or flextime. Even inspirational leadership, on its own, might not do the trick. Understanding employee engagement factors can help organizations to figure out how to better tap employees’ “discretionary effort”—i.e., the level of effort people could give if they wanted to, but above and beyond the minimum required. Engrossing employees into a productive flow requires understanding the needs and priorities of different segments of the employee population and taking action to meet those needs. In sum, it requires a coherent “people model.”

Chad Harrison is vice president of Learning & Development, North America, Elavon. His 15-year career as an L&D and applied behaviorial analysis professional spans industries including retail, travel and entertainment, and financial services. Harrison has provided developmental and executive coaching to Fortune 500 companies such as Dollar General Corporation, Cendant Corporation, Fairfield Resorts, Wyndham Worldwide, and the Avis/Budget Car Rental Group.