Changing Language and Shifting Perspectives on the “Big Four”​ of Employee Metrics

Employee Metrics - The Avalon Institute

It’s no secret that every company wants to improve their employee metrics, retention, engagement, productivity, and sustainability. And it’s no secret that today’s organizations are struggling to figure out the best way to tackle those goals.

Retention trends have shifted so much that jobs are being called “tours of duty” and the career ladder has been replaced with the career lattice. Employee engagement is at an all-time low, costing the US economy over $450 billion annually – leading to the inevitable reduction of individual productivity. With all this as the workplace reality, it’s clear that the “way we’ve always done things” is anything BUT sustainable.

Focus on Employee Metrics

So what if the problem is that we’re all focusing on the wrong things? What if we’re focusing only on the outcomes and not on the action-steps – the actual processes – it takes to get us there?

“Retention,” “engagement,” “productivity,” and “sustainability” are all vague businessy terms that lack the human element needed to motivate a workforce – especially one that is now dominated by the Millennial generation. Younger workers want to be inspired into action, not just directed. Shifting the company mindset to a more process-based approach on the “Big Four” of employee metrics may seem daunting, but you can start closing the gap by changing just one key aspect of the discussion: your language.

Though it might seem like a slight nuance, shifting language here allows for a subtle shift in perspective – moving the focus from the result we’re trying to obtain to the PROCESS it will take to get us there. For example, instead of focusing on creating better retention, we shift our focus to creating culture: reinforcing organizational mission, vision, and values and living out that practice every day.

If we start thinking within this frame, each metric then has a process-based counterpart (shown in the graphic below). By focusing on the human-centered element of each area, we can bridge the gaps between employer goals and employee needs to create better performance metrics across the board.

Millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce and they’re leading the conversational change when it comes to how we approach traditional workplace goals. With that in mind, let’s zero in and get a better understanding of what each of these four process-words look like from a Millennial lens.

Culture – Millennials want to work for a purpose and they want to work at a company that has a clear understanding of who they are and why they do what they do. If salary is relatively standard, feeling as if their work matters is the number one reason a Millennial will (or won’t) stay in their current role. Common language helps support their commitment because it takes the hyper-diverse perspectives of all your employees and gives them a touchstone of communication – a language that’s easily understood, supports the company vision, and allows for more efficient and meaningful dialogue.

Relationships – Millennials are generally the most social and connected generation to date. They’ve grown up working in teams and value collaboration – and have also been taught that they have a voice and that it matters. Offering opportunities for Millennial employees to engage with their coworkers (and bosses) through discussion and feedback will give them a platform to share perspectives and build trust. This generation highly prioritizes work-life balance, and wants to be exactly who they are at home and in the office. If, as a manager, you don’t care about connecting with the person working with you, you’re going to have a hard time motivating them to perform for you.

Structure – Everyone talks about Millennials wanting autonomy, and it’s true. The Millennial generation values individuality and likes to do things their way. But they don’t want to be thrown to the wolves: Clear expectations make all the difference – especially early on. When you leave assignments too vague and open ended, it can cause misunderstanding. Millennials want a basic set of parameters to work with (why are we doing this, what’s the deadline, what are the big considerations) and then want the freedom to tackle the problem in their own way from there. Just turning them loose without information, structure, or follow up doesn’t feel like autonomy, it feels like abandonment.

Habits – One of the things this younger generation struggles with most is being disciplined on a consistent, daily basis – but the truth is: that’s not just a Millennial thing – it’s a human thing! Having the self-discipline to create habits is HARD and requires daily commitment to the little details. Millennials have grown up synthesizing large amounts of information and bopping from one thing to the next, which often forces them to skip over “small stuff” and quickly pull out the big themes. When you’re talking about creating Habits, it is essential to break things down to the little tangible behaviors that will eventually make a big difference over time. Creating a process to practice consistent discipline – and creating systems of accountability to hold individuals and your team in check – is crucial. For help changing (or creating!) a habit, try using this great infographic/flow-chart from Charles Duhigg, author of the bestselling book, The Power of Habit.

As you can see from the sections above, changing your language is only the beginning…. but you’ve got to start somewhere.

Taking one step, one metric, and one word at a time, focus on prioritizing the person in every process. As you stay committed to enhancing your employee experience, you’ll build an organization where people will openly engage in problem solving, will dedicate themselves to the tasks at hand, and will want to stay and see their projects – and the company – succeed.

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