Krehn Solutions

Re-imagining Employee of the Month

Category: News
Published on Sunday, 27 April 2014
Written by Raymond Krehn

It's common amongst management to recognize employees for their high work ethics. One of these methods is the all-to-familiar "Employee of the Month." You can see these displayed in some stores or offices along a wall with a picture of the the employee's face and usually a quote dictating why they're there. However, there can be more negative side effects than positive side effects of the reward.

A study at Harvard Business School discovered that the most productive workers and the most consistently punctual workers - suffered a 6-8% decrease in productivity after the award was instituted. It also shows that a low likelihood of winning may be ineffective because employees do not habituate good behavior, and instead lead to a highly strategic response from employees.

From a psychological standpoint, this can breed jealousy amongst teammates. The winners of the award may be considered a "stuck up" or "playing the politics game." In return, it reduces team cohesiveness and chemistry.

The award negatively impacts non-winners too. The criteria for nomination are typically vague and unclear. They may sacrifice quality or even falsify nominations or recognition for the award. Even worse, those who perform at a high rate and even strive for a job well-done may never achieve the award, or be consistently outperformed. As a result, their ego is deflated and their productivity/quality decreases. 

This isn't to say the award is a bad idea. For example, the employee recognized gets recognized by everyone, which may include the owner and CEO. When we evaluate the purpose we determine that it is to reward and recognize employees for exemplary service.

So, what can I do instead?

We want to award employees for being a good example to their teammates and going above and beyond their call of duty. We have to keep in mind that we don't want a reward system that could be gamed or falsified. 

Positive feedback is the best approach. Recognize it sooner rather than later, and be specific on the appraise: What did they do and why do they earn recognition? Be surprising! If the owner, CEO, director, or whomever pays a surprise visit and personally thanks the employee, then this is more beneficial than any award. Plus, it doesn't cost anything, monetarily speaking. However, don't be afraid to provide constructive feedback should any issues arise. Not everyone is perfect all the time. 

If the goal is to promote or advertise the team, then a board of recognition is worth it. For example, rather than having specific employee names mentioned, set the team as a whole.

For example:

Instead of "I would like to recognize Ray for stepping in and taking the time to help me understand the process."

Say "I would like to recognize a person on this team for stepping in and taking the time to help me understand the process."

This provides less pressure on the individual and reinforces teamwork. However, this shouldn't replace recognizing the employee personally for their efforts either.

This is a link to a MIT published article on recommendations for employee recognition programs for alternative ideas.

Open-plan offices are a false economy

Category: News
Published on Monday, 21 April 2014
Written by Raymond Krehn

It wouldn't be too wild an assumption that very few of us enjoy working in an open-plan office. For all the propaganda that they improve communication, boost team spirit and increase efficiency, the fact is that as far as most of their inmates are concerned, open-plan offices are noisy, distracting and stressful –just the wrong sort of environment, in fact, in which to work effectively.

The trouble is that many organisations apparently continue to inhabit a nineteenth-century mind-set about work and the workplace in which managers believe that employees have to be constantly supervised, that departments and functions should be kept separated and advances up the organisational hierarchy must be marked with more territorial space.

And of course, cramming more employees in a smaller space is always going to have its financial attractions. But according to a new study of more than 40,000 American office workers, it's a false economy. In fact there is no evidence that open plan spaces offer any benefits all – least of all improved interaction and communication.

Jungsoo Kim and Richard de Dear from the University of Sydney Faculty of Architecture used a standard questionnaire to evaluate how satisfied workers were with their office environment. Two thirds of those surveyed worked in open-plan offices (with or without partitions), a quarter had private offices and the remainder shared a single room with co-workers.

The findings, outlined in The British Psychological Society Research Digest, confirm that workers in private offices were the most satisfied with their workspace.

The biggest issue with open-plan offices was "sound privacy", with the noise problem being even more marked in open-plan offices with partitions – or cubes. Meanwhile, personal space (or the lack thereof) emerged from the survey as the biggest single factor in determining overall satisfaction levels.

"Enclosed private offices clearly outperformed open-plan layouts in most aspects of Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ)," the researchers found, "particularly in acoustics, privacy and the proxemics issues."

But the key finding as far as debunking once and for all any arguments in favour of open-plan environments is that the "benefits of enhanced 'ease of interaction' were smaller than the penalties of increased noise level and decreased privacy resulting from open-plan office configuration."

In other words, the costs of lost privacy and increased distraction are not outweighed in open-plan environments by the benefits of ease of communication. And just to confirm this, the study also found that workers in private offices are more satisfied with ease of interaction than those in open-plan spaces.

While the Australian team don't quantify what this means in terms of productivity, a 2005 report by the UK Commission for Architecture & the Built Environment found that a well-designed, employee-friendly office environment can boost productivity by as much as a quarter.

And a separate survey the same year found that eight out of 10 professionals considered the quality of their working environment very important to job satisfaction and more than a third considered the working environment as a factor in accepting or rejecting a job offer.

As the Australian team state: "Our results categorically contradict the industry-accepted wisdom that open-plan layout enhances communication between colleagues and improves occupants' overall work environmental satisfaction," the researchers concluded.

"Considering previous researchers' finding that satisfaction with workspace environment is closely related to perceived productivity, job satisfaction and organisational outcomes, the open-plan proponents' argument that open-plan improves morale and productivity appears to have no basis in the research literature."

 

Workspace satisfaction: The privacy-communication trade-off in open-plan offices appears in the December 2013 Journal of Environmental Psychology.

Amble, Brian. "Open-plan offices are a false economy." Open-plan offices are a false economy. management-issues.com, 22 Aug. 2013. Web. 21 Apr. 2014. http://www.management-issues.com/news/6735/open-plan-offices-are-a-false-economy.

Heartbleed security breach and what you should do

Category: News
Published on Tuesday, 15 April 2014
Written by Raymond Krehn

Unlike other exposed security breaches the heartbreak won't affect many people. There was a hole in SSL signatures that basically allowed hackers to take a peak at data being transmitted. Essentially, SSL is like using keys to get in a door to your home. Heartbreak is like when a robber uses the old credit card trick to open the door and get in. The SSL signature displays as a little lock when you login some sites in the browser bar. This let's you know the site is secure (and the robber can't use credit cards). 

Click the below image to expand.

Click image to expand

 

So what can you do? 

You can install one of the browser extensions below that will run in the background. If a site that you login is exposed to Heartbleed then the extension will inform you and you should avoid logging into that site until it's fixed. If you've logged in already then I highly recommend changing your passwords.

Hope this helps!

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