Talaera Talks - Business English Communication

29. Promoting Trust Will Increase Employee Engagement - Talaera Talks

November 22, 2021 Talaera Business English Communications Training Season 1 Episode 29
Talaera Talks - Business English Communication
29. Promoting Trust Will Increase Employee Engagement - Talaera Talks
Show Notes Transcript

Listen to this interview with Lior Lavi, Software Development Manager at SAP. He has vast experience in management and employee engagement and shared interesting insights into what it takes to keep a team together, striving for the same goals. Read the interview notes: https://blog.talaera.com/trust-employee-engagement-interview

Paola Pascual:

Welcome to Talaera Talks, the business English communication podcast for non native professionals. My name is Paola and I am co hosting the show with Simon.

Simon Kennell:

In this podcast, we're going to be covering communication advice and tips to help express yourself with confidence in English in professional settings. So we hope you enjoy the show.

Paola Pascual:

Great. All right. Welcome one more day to Talaera Talks. My name is Paola. And I'm in great company today, as we have a very, very special guest. And well, before we actually introduce him, Simon, how are you today?

Simon Kennell:

I'm doing well doing well as a same as you. I'm excited for our guest today. And yeah, I mean, without further ado, I have a little introduction. So I'm gonna I'm gonna read off the introduction here. And then we'll let Lior go ahead and introduce himself as well. So, you know, I hope I don't butcher the introduction, but we'll see. Alright, here we go. Lior Lavi is a software development manager at SAP with over 15 years experience in the high tech industry, as a long time manager to several employees, your loves to help people and teams grow, develop and execute on their delivery. He has written several articles on navigating the different challenges that come with being a manager in a multinational and dynamic environment, as well. He's written and presented on employee engagement and how leveraging effective employee engagement can help teams become better in what they do. So the our that was kind of a mouthful, but if you could, you know, introduce yourself. I'm we're so excited to have you on the podcast. Welcome. And maybe yeah, you can tell us a little bit about yourself, and, and then we'll go from there.

Lior Lavi:

Yeah, so thankful that, Simon, Paola, it's really a big pleasure to be here on your podcast. And actually, Simon, you did really great. So I don't have much to add. So So as he said, I've been working in the high tech industry for the last 15 years, really enjoying it, really enjoying helping people, organizations grow and execute and deliver great software to our customers. So that's about it in a nutshell.

Simon Kennell:

Well, great. And so how about you? Family, hobbies, anything like that?

Lior Lavi:

Yeah, sure. So I'm happily married with three children. And in regards to hobbies, I like to do some sports, whether it's running yoga, and, and more. And, yeah, that's it. Right?

Simon Kennell:

We're very excited to have you very excited. Let's kind of hop into it. I mean, really, you know, you're the employee engagement guy, you know, and I did things too, you actually get to see a talk that you gave on employee engagement, it was all in Hebrew. So I did have to make use of the subtitles. But now we have you here on the podcast, so we can kind of dig into it a little bit deeper. So, you know, we do at the time of this recording, we do have an employee engagement webinar coming up or so I'm doing a lot of research and looking into a lot of things around employee engagement. And there's just, first of all, there's so many things around the name employee engagement itself, and so many different factors. But just to kind of start, you know, what is employee engagement? And what got you so interested in it?

Lior Lavi:

Yeah, so first of all, it's nice to be called the employee engagement guy. A few years back, I didn't feel that way. And actually, this is the reason that got me into this topic of employee engagement. So it was about eight or nine years ago when I was just, I was just promoted to become an engineering manager. And that time, I was really confident because previously to that I was a team leader. And I got some experience. Please, leading a small team. So as I said, I was really confident in that to enter this position. Unfortunately, reality didn't Want to play ball with me on that parts? gave me some some hard time. But these are the cases where you will learn a lot. And I learned a lot about employee engagement, then one, what happens during the actually, the first year of me being a manager was that I got a great team, great team of people working, delivering, collaborating. And unfortunately, within one year, I managed to ruin the big parts of that, you know, like a hurricane. Obviously, I didn't intend to do it, I wanted to do good. And so at that point, so I realized that my people, my team members, they don't trust me enough. They think I'm being too judgmental, that time not partnering up with them. Not valuing enough their work, and all all good reasons. So looking in hindsight, so I totally agree with them. But all this got me to think about what do I want to do now. And especially at the end of that first year, I got my first employees, survey results, and the results were awful. One of the worst ever. So all of that got me a lot to thinking about about how do I want to improve the situation? And so I started looking up and reading about what can I do as the manager and talking to people or investigating and do my own little research. And at some point, I stumbled upon the concept of employee engagement. And I started to dig into that topic to see how can I leverage employee engagement to making first of all, a better atmosphere and eventually, also better scores in the employee survey?

Simon Kennell:

That must have been... Sorry to interrupt! That must have been really tough to get that feedback like, you know, just bad. Like, nobody wants to be the bad manager, like, you know, and not saying that you were a bad manager. But that kind of... That must have been really tough to get that feedback. But then it says something about you that you kind of took that feedback and really started digging into how you could develop skills around, you know, becoming a better manager. And I feel like that's almost, you know, that's one of the things that leadership development is such a big topic in so many organizations, because it is it really does matter, right? Having good managers who have these skills, was this something that you just kind of had to learn on your own?

Lior Lavi:

Yeah, so of course, I have a lot of people to learn from whether it was my own manager or colleagues that I work with, but also online and reading books. But I think eventually, you know, when you when you get to such a difficult situation, especially when you're a manager, I think you're expected to see how you can come out of it, learn what you can do and see how you can come out of it. And obviously, organizations see a lot of value in having high employee engagements.

Paola Pascual:

And when you saw those results, do you remember the first steps you took? How Where did you even start?

Lior Lavi:

Okay, so after all of this research, so eventually, I like did a workshop where I shared all my learnings with my team about employee engagement. And I can tell you that the first sentence that came out of my mouth that that day or that morning, was that, for me, having an improved employee engagement group is the most crucial, important thing. Even more than our delivery, whatever we'll do, because I knew that eventually we'll be able to increase employee engagement and people will be more engaged to the organization, its goals, then the outcome will be better outcomes, business outcomes, obviously. And also, you know, having more fun at work, it's also something we should aspire to.

Simon Kennell:

So you had you had a workshop where you were you did all this research, and then you, you brought it to that to your actual team, so to your team members that that did the surveys and everything like that. And then you did a workshop together around improving employee engagement.

Lior Lavi:

Exactly. So during this session, so first of all, we try to understand, so what is employee engagement, because, you know, many times, people confuse between employee engagement, and employee happiness or satisfaction from the workplace. So you know, when you come to work in the morning, or you log in to your workplace, you might be happy to talk with your colleagues, because they might be your best friends or something like that. And maybe like the perks that you're getting from your work and you're satisfied from it, maybe you're satisfied from your salary, etc. But that doesn't mean you're engaged. So being engaged means that you have an emotional commitment to the organization and its goals. So this is what it means to be engaged. And it means that eventually, as an employee, I do things not because I have to not because I look at my work as the action, I do work, and I get money. But they do things they cause they want to, they want to see their organization and progress and succeed and excel in what they do. So I think this is something really important to understand, of course, this is something that I shared in the this workshop. But apart from that, so you know, many, many times, you say okay, employee engagement, it's obvious that it's really important for for organizations, they want their employees to be engaged, because eventually if your organization is engaged, so it means you have higher productivity, your top and bottom lines may increase, let your employees take less sick days, they're less sick. And eventually, for organizations, employee engagement equals money. But the fun part, or the nice part about employee engagement places is I see it is a win win deal. So yeah, organizations benefit from employee engagement, but also employees. So for instance, there they are. So they say that when you are engaged, you have a better performance at work, you get higher pay, you have better mental health, healthier, of course, and I also read somewhere that you have a reduced risk of getting divorce. When you're engaged...

Simon Kennell:

And we get you know, we have flying powers, we can, you know, we can lift any amount of weight, and we can we have all these other superpowers...

Lior Lavi:

Honestly, so yeah, you could be cynical and there are people who are, but me Yeah, it makes sense. Because when you when you are connected to what you do to your daily job, to your colleagues to the goals of what your organization tries to, to reach, there's like a spillover effect. So you enjoy what you're doing, it spills over to your entire life. And you enjoy it. And that's how you see all these these benefits.

Simon Kennell:

That's, I love that so much because it is, you know, I like to think about it like a kind of a wheel that starts to turn and it gets positive reinforcement in it. And it really does that. And I think maybe, you know, when you say something like organizational employee engagement, that's like, when you're talking about a company that's so big and everything like that, it just, it seems like so much but, you know, if we boil it down to individual teams, right, so doesn't that really, of course it comes to each person is responsible for you know, their engagement and everything like that, but doesn't it really boil down to having good managers and having the skills you know, and when it comes down to the day to day things that managers can do to increase engagement. What were those things that you found out that you can do on a daily basis with your team?

Lior Lavi:

Yeah, so Simon, you you're totally right for them. manager plays here, a really crucial role in making his team members engaged. So, and yes, you know that there's like saying that people join companies, but leave managers, right. And this is so true also in regards to employee engagement, because when the manager doesn't invest in his employees engagement, eventually, they they leave. So So in general, there are many engagements, drivers to help people feel more connected to the organization, to their team, etc. I think one of the main aspects of that is, of course, communication, as a factor of creating engagement. So as managers, we need to make sure that we, we communicate clearly our vision, our goals and our way forwards. And in general, I really like that when my communication with my team members is open is honest, and candidates. Actually, this is one of the in our first one on ones that I have with with new employees. This is one of the first thing that I talked about, that this is how I want to lay the foundation of our relationship and communication with open, honest and candid communication. Of course, it's a two sided roads. But, but this is something really important for creating trust.

Paola Pascual:

I love that you said that. And it's I totally agree with you. I think it has to be open and honest. And but then I also have a question, because that's sometimes easy to say, but then it's a little bit hard to actually do it. How have you managed to actually have those open conversations and honest and candid?

Lior Lavi:

Yeah, so you told you totally right, Paola, and maybe if I go back to that workshop that I mentioned, afterwards, I had some really deep, deep and thorough one on ones with each one of my employees about engagements. So we had like, like, they had the opportunity to fill like a few forms, to measure their their engagement drivers and see, where are the places that we need to invest more in order to make them more engaged, or at least I need to embed more and during that deep one on one. So we talked about it. So without what was good, what was going on? Who do we want to maintain? And what did we want to improve in our relationship, or even in what the employee does, okay, so for instance, maybe an employee didn't feel connected enough to our strategy. So there, I need to see how I make some adjustments in order to bring in more. So for instance, I can tell you that the team SAP so we have, we have like a forum called strategy ambassador, where every employee can join and learn more about SAP strategy, you know, from from executives, and all that. So So for instance, one of my employees had some gaps in this topic in communication. And she joined this forum, and she really enjoyed it. And the benefit was that not only did she learn from it and gotten more connected to the strategy afterwards, he also shared it in group meetings with the entire group.

Simon Kennell:

Yeah, it was kind of... You took the initiative from there and spread that further. That I mean, that's huge. I think it's, you know, it's really interesting, because what it sounds like is these one on ones, they really play a big role in number one said, like, kind of laying that foundation that you were talking about, and, and bringing in that trust based kind of relationship with with your employees. And, and so, I mean, I think a lot of people listening are like, Yeah, that sounds great, and everything, but, you know, we have 100, you know, 1000 things that we have to do every single day, and I can't just carve out, you know, an hour out of the day to meet with with someone and I mean, from your experience, how many times are you meeting doing these one on ones? And, you know, you really kind of, you really see the benefit in taking, taking that time and investing that time.

Lior Lavi:

So I think investing the time As I said, it's an investment and you need to put this investment, otherwise, you'll end up as I did. Yeah, so so. So you need to invest in these areas, because otherwise people will drift off, and will be less and less engaged. So we talked about one aspect with which is, which is communication. Another aspect is also to be to be recognized. And I think that one once is a great place for managers to recognize there are other platforms as well. But this is also one of them, actually, usually, with my, with my reports, I asked them, when you come to one on one with me, I asked you please brag about yourself, please brag because people have the tendency not to talk too much about their achievements and what they did. So this is a way for me to encourage them. I said, just brag, I want to hear about all the good stuff that you're that you're doing. And as I said, this is a great way for me then to also recognize all of what, what they did, because if you don't do it, people feel feel and values in the workplace. And this is horrible for their engagement. And actually, you know, in these last months, there have been talks about the big resignation, and not being valued enough, is one of the main drivers of this big resignation. So people don't feel valued enough in their companies, and they try to look elsewhere.

Paola Pascual:

Do you ever ask your, your team how they like to be recognized? Or how do you do you have a one size fits all? When it comes to recognizing your employees? Or how does it work?

Lior Lavi:

So it depends on what we have. So usually a practice both. So I have some some ways of doing it. Like I really like recognizing people in like group meetings, where everyone is around the table or around the zoom. The and share the recommendation, usually what we try to do is, is like, phrase it explicitly, so what did that individual do? Why do we recognize him and recognize and acknowledge the good things that he did, and brought into the team or the company? So the people also will understand what is expected? What do we want to achieve? What do we appreciate? In other places, but yeah, so they are like more ad hoc specific individual recognitions, that I tried to tailor to specific individuals?

Simon Kennell:

That's great. Did this... Like how did how did COVID impact this? If I think about it, you know, myself being a people person, I'd love to be in person, you know, with a team and talking about things and you can kind of feel that energy and everything like that. And now, you know, I've had to kind of change that a little bit, working at telera. Because we're, you know, we're a remote company, and we're doing things like this, which is the way a lot of companies are moving or either to a hybrid approach, you know, so there's a different way to do it, when you're when you're working remote or hybrid. And for myself, I find like, it really means taking the time to write that personalized message or taking the time to say hey, that thing that you know, you did, I saw that and I recognize that and bring that up. But in your experience, is it different kind of your role as a manager now throughout COVID and kind of going from hybrid and this whole transition?

Lior Lavi:

So maybe I'll give you an example about seeing your people. Yeah. So prior to COVID I used to whenever one of my team members had a birthday, I used to live like personalized notes on his desk just the night before the birthday so when he comes in the morning he will sit and read what I wrote him and of course was like personalized to that specific person. Nowadays what I do it just do it via WhatsApp or just send text message via WhatsApp with all the blessings.

Simon Kennell:

Yeah. And you still feel like? I mean, do you feel like your team is still as engaged as as they were before with like during COVID? Or do you feel like you've had to really go above and beyond during COVID.

Lior Lavi:

So I think especially the first year, like, let's say last year was really challenging. And at many points, I felt that the theme is both going above and beyond just to do whatever is needed to satisfy fi the, the business needs. But at the same time, I felt that they are really, really stressed about the situation, and we need to lighten up some of the some of the occurrences. So So actually, I can give you a nice thing that we did. So it was during. So it wasn't locked down, because the kids were already back to school. But what we did it so during the work day itself, I sent everyone my my team, a meeting requests, which appeared as out of office, and I asked each and every one please, during those two hours, do something for yourself or your family. Something which is obviously not work related, something that contributes either to you or your family. And people really enjoyed it, you know, two hours, the middle of the day. And afterwards, they they also sent pictures of what they did. And it was really fun for everyone to see what all the others did doing this, these two hours.

Simon Kennell:

And so my last question around engagement and employee engagement is probably the big one that when we talk about, like with HR and learning and development, and we kind of throw out these things around, like, tracking this tracking engagement, how do you measure employee engagement? Like, is that something that can be measured? You said before that? You know, they show that, you know, companies make a lot more money with engaged employees? Yeah, I just Yeah, I'd love to hear how, how is that? How is that even measured?

Lior Lavi:

Yeah, so companies, you know what, actually, before I touch this point, there's one more point that they need to talk about engagement. And I'll share a short story. So when I was doing my research about employee engagement, so I found out a short video, which is like a press conference or interview with Colin Powell, who just passed away last week. Yeah. And, like the journalist there or something asked him about leadership, or what is the key to leadership, and just in instantaneously, without barely thinking, he said, Trust. So that and I totally agree. So that's the basic for all this small world word. But it means a whole lot. So if you get if you have trust with your employees, you'll be able to do everything you'll be able to increase your employee engagement, you'll have engaged employees. So this is something that that I had to to emphasize. And this this comes from listening to employees and really, really listening so if we're talking about one on one, so when you're on the one on one, be with your employee, listen carefully to what they say and how they say it means to partner up with your employees and seeing how not only you or the organization can benefit from what they do, but also how can you contribute and make them successful as individuals? And going back to, to your question. So So in many companies, there are like company wide surveys with different questions about the engagement levels. So for instance, here at SAP every few months, we have such company survey and afterwards all the managers receive the results and they can then follow up and see what what do they need to preserve and what do they need to know To improve. But apart from that, I think a good reference to what does it mean? Like an employee engagement questionnaire? So we have the gallops 12 Question engagement questionnaire. So you can just Google it and find it. And it's, it gives you a really good overview of, of these surveys or questions, and also as an outcome, where do you need to invest in order to increase employee engagement?

Simon Kennell:

Wow, I love that. And I have to say, just, you know, before, I'm so glad you brought up that point about Colin Powell and trust. And, you know, it kind of gave me goosebumps there. I was, like, wow, like, you know, can you be my manager? Like, I want to do a one on one with you like, that was just, that was No, I totally agree. And I love that you brought it up, and the whole kind of concept of yeah, really taking the time and those one on ones. And, and that's, I mean, that's huge. I don't know, Paola, what do you think about it?

Paola Pascual:

I think it's crucial. And so going back to that trust that you're mentioning, it's sometimes overlooked, like a manager has to be able to, you know, express the vision and the mission and explain things properly and give feedback and so on. But then, a lot of people do forget about the trust. And without that, it's so hard to go to work. It's so hard to, to speak up. It's so hard to actually feel part of it. So I love that you brought it up. Totally agree.

Simon Kennell:

Yeah, totally agree. Lior, I mean, this was so great. And, you know, I think I think it was really a treat for us to have you ever been talking about employee engagement. And it almost sounds, you know, like trite just saying employee engagement, because it's not that it's managing. And it's, it's how you interact with the team. And it's, it's so much more, right. And I just, I really think that your own insights and your own stories, and your own experience that really paints it in a new light. And we're Yeah, I think both of us are really thankful for having you on today. And, you know, we really appreciate it.

Lior Lavi:

Thank you. I really enjoyed being on your podcast. Right. Great. Great. Great.

Paola Pascual:

Great. And Simon, you also have (oh, sorry, go ahead). Yeah, sorry. You You were mentioning that you have a webinar with with Marie, and I know you will be talking about similar things and employee engagement. And what else were you covering there?

Simon Kennell:

Yeah, so we have an upcoming webinar, we're talking about Yeah. Employee engagement and how we can use communication and language to to really drive employee engagement at all points throughout the, you know, employee lifecycle with the company. So that being at the beginning, right, so we're talking about recruitment, how do we drive engagement, then we're talking about using employee engagement in surveys. So I'm definitely Lior gonna check out that Gallup 12 questions. Definitely, I might do a little cheat sheet there. And then as well going into, you know, using feedback, so it's gonna be a lot. And hopefully, we'll have a good number of participants viewing in but yeah, should be fun.

Paola Pascual:

I'm sure. I can't wait to watch it. And Lior it's been so great to have you again, I appreciate it. This is it's been really great to hear about your experience and your tips. And I'm sure our listeners will love it, too.

Lior Lavi:

Thank you. Thank you guys.

Simon Kennell:

Perfect. Thank you, everyone. And yeah, that was it for today. Again, you know, give us a subscribe. Give us a comment. write into us if you have any, you know, requests for things you'd like to hear about or topics you'd like us to discuss. Other than that, this was the three of us today. Lior thank you again. Otherwise, I should just say as usual, keep learning.

Paola Pascual:

And that's all we have for you today. We hope you enjoyed it. And remember to subscribe to telera talks. We'll be back soon with more.

Simon Kennell:

And visit our website at talaera.com for more valuable content on business English. You can also request a free consultation on the best ways for you and your team to improve your communication skills. So have a great day and keep learning