Following on from my recent interview, Social Business: walking the talk and debunking some of the myths: Interview with Will McInnes of NixonMcInnes, today I want to share with you an interview that I recently conducted with Kevin Kruse, a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, and NY Times bestselling author. He speaks and writes about human capital, startup success and how to unleash your inner entrepreneur.

This interview makes up number twenty-four in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that I think that you will find interesting and helpful in growing your businesses.

I caught up with Kevin at the end of July.

Below are highlights from our interview:

Note: Apologies for a few intermittent quality issues with the podcast.

  • Over the last couple of years, Kevin has written two books. The first: We: How to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement (written with Rudy Karsan, CEO of Kenexa) was published in 2011 and was a New York Times best seller. And, the second: Employee Engagement 2.0: How to Motivate Your Team for High Performance (a Real-World Guide for Busy Managers) was published earlier this year.
  • Kevin is an ex-Kenexa partner after Kenexa acquired Kevin’s business a number of years ago.
  • Kenexa is a leading player in the employee engagement survey space and provides employment and retention solutions to assist organisations in hiring and keeping workers.
  • However, Kevin is a business guy not an HR guy.
  • ‘We’ was written as a book on how we take the Kenexa research on engagement and make it more accessible to the regular business guy and not just for HR professionals.
  • The book, Employee Engagement 2.0, came about due to requests from business leaders when they asked ‘what do I tell my managers to start doing on Monday morning’. Rather than being a 300 page book it is a 50 page manual that is very practical and a step by step guide about how to create an engaged team or workforce over a 90 day period.
  • The employee engagement debate is being driven by the fact that employee satisfaction is at an all time low. That is being driven by many factors not just the economic recession that we now find ourselves in.
  • Employee engagement is, in the main, talked about being something that is done to employees.
  • However, in the book and this one of the things that makes it different, is that Kevin and Rudy talk about engagement that is something that managers and employees do together. It is a collaborative, two-way conversation with both sides having an obligation and a responsibility for their own contribution. Hence, the title: ‘We’
  • On an individual level, they talk about the 3 P’s of the career-life bullseye: Passion (what do you like doing, what gets you out of bed, what do you like having fun with), Purpose (where do you want to serve, in what area do you want to make a contribution) & Pay (what can you earn a living doing, what standard of living do you want to achieve).
  • From a company and managers standpoint, they talk about results from Kenexa’s research that shows that over 70% of engagement (how one feels at work) is driven by three things: Growth (personal and professional challenge), Recognition (a feeling that you are appreciated) & Trust (which is not just ethics but that the employee trusts that the future is bright).
  • Employee engagement surveys when done right can identify the areas that need work are money well spent. When done wrong then they are just cosmetic and a waste of money and resources.
  • However, engagement surveys are not the be-all and end-all and changes in managers behaviour that focus on the growth, recognition and trust idea can generate much greater returns.
  • Appraisal and development conversations should not just be an annual event but should be ongoing conversations that are tied to both real world objectives and career development, particularly when aligned with what the employee wants. Do this well and it will have a huge impact on levels of engagement and morale in the workplace.
  • How you treat your employees will have a direct effect on how they treat your customers…….common sense that is not so common.
  • Employee engagement does drive better business results. Kenexa’s research shows that publicly traded companies with the most engaged employees in the top 25% outperform the bottom 25% in terms of share price performance by 500%. Other companies showed a 6% higher net profit when they had higher levels of engaged employees as compared to their peers with lower levels of engaged employees.
  • Many people know the Service Profit Chain. However, Kevin likes to add an element to the front of that which he calls the Employee Engagement Profit Chain, where the more that someone is engaged the more discretionary effort they give. This results in better service, higher customer satisfaction, more repeat business and referrals and higher sales and profit levels.
  • One of the challenges that many companies face is that this the type of leadership, management and culture that is required to create an engaged workforce (or an engaged customer base, for that matter) is foreign to many executives. Particularly, those who came up through the ranks when companies were solely organised on military/industrial-type command and control structures, where they managed tasks and managed people as resources.
  • However, the C-level are starting to recognise that this is something that is worth investing time and resources. But, we are not there yet.
  • Employee engagement is really driven by the relationship that an employee has with their boss.
  • The Growth, Recognition and Trust model also works well for how customers feel about a sales or customer service representative or a business, in general.
  • The front-line managers are where the potential is. They are the unsung heroes of most organisations and companies don’t do enough to support, train and develop them.
  • The problem in a nutshell: Most of us are managers of tasks rather than leaders of people.
  • The challenge is how can we become more mindful of our role every day as a leader of people rather than a manager of tasks.
  • One piece of advice for all managers: Get out from behind your computers and spend more time with your people.
  • Or, put another way, managers need to learn to say ‘No to more tasks and yes to more people’ (Note: possible blog post from Kevin and I on that).
  • Lots of case examples in the interview from Campbell’s Soup, Coca-Cola and Zappos.
  • We need to get back to a more humanistic approach to work.
  • Kevin believes that a work-life balance can’t exist but a work-life blend can.

About Kevin (taken from his website)

Kevin Kruse is a successful serial entrepreneur, angel investor and NY Times bestselling author. Among his many awards, Kevin’s companies have won both Inc 500 awards for fast growth and a Best Place to Work Award in PA. He has advised members of Congress, CEOs and government agencies in the areas of job growth and innovation.

His book, We: How to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement, was a NY Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller. His newest book, Employee Engagement 2.0 is a how-to manual for front-managers that want to unleash the discretionary effort of their teams. His articles and interviews have appeared in Fast Company, Business Week, Forbes, American Express OpenForum, Business Insider and other leading publications.

Kevin has traveled the globe as a keynote speaker on leadership, human capital and business excellence. He is consistently rated among the top keynote speakers at events he attends.

Kevin currently leads a non-profit, invests as an angel at Delaware Crossing, is co-owner of Team Capital Bank, and builds libraries in Asia with The Library Project. Kevin lives with his three children in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

You can connect with Kevin via his blog at www.kevinkruse.com and on Twitter at @Kruse.

Thanks to mark sebastian for the image..

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