Human Resources exists to maximize the productivity of an organization by optimizing the effectiveness of its employees. Employee effectiveness is optimized when employees are engaged.

In 2016, Gallup released its annual employee engagement survey which polled more than 80,000 workers nationally. Similar to results released in 2015, the survey found that a mere 32% of employees were engaged at work. Engaged employees are the minority at work, but they are the ones who drive innovation, grow the organization, improve customer care, foster loyalty, and raise productivity. They outperform disengaged employees by over 200%1.

32 % of employees are engaged at work

Poor productivity stemming from disengaged employees results in:

  • Costing U.S. businesses $450-$550 billion collectively each year
  • Higher rates of turnover (the average cost to replace an employee is nearly $14,0002)
  • Less valuable client relationships
  • Excessive absenteeism

Businesses and managers must create the conditions for satisfied and engaged employees, who in turn will provide valuable performance output. Motivating high performance requires getting to the heart of what matters to employees.

There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to motivating and engaging employees. Implementing a blanket recognition/incentive program without considering an individual’s motivating drives can actually be detrimental to employee engagement, as it can devalue individual preferences (not all employees appreciate a standing ovation at the monthly staff meeting).’

Want to increase employee engagement? Consider these options:

  1. Measure your employees’ level of engagement. To learn what employees think of their job and organization, consider conducting an Employee Engagement Survey. This is the most common way for employers to get a pulse on their workforce and it also gives employees the opportunity to share feedback anonymously.
  2. Increase communication effectiveness and develop better managers. Lack of communication and poor relationships between managers and employees are among the top drivers of employee disengagement.
  3. To better understand how to motivate and engage employees and to get a feel for their individual drives, needs, and behaviors, consider implementing a scientifically validated behavioral assessment program within your organization, such as The Predictive Index. Remember, there is no one size fits all when it comes to motivating and engaging employees.
Engaged employees outperform disengaged employees by over 200%

The ultimate goal of an organization is employee engagement. It will improve the bottom line, increase employee and client loyalty, and help to foster a well-rounded, productive, and frankly “happy” workforce.

1 Source: Gallup
2 Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


Riding the lift

According to the annual 2017 Alamo Family Vacation Survey, nearly half of American workers feel guilty when planning or taking a vacation, with an equivalent amount not using the vacation time they are given. Respondents claim they feel “shamed” by other co-workers who make them feel guilty for taking time off.

Whoa! That seems crazy to me. I mean, I am writing this article WHILE on vacation, and feel no guilt what-so-ever. Oh wait … so I am not technically on vacation if I am working? LOL!

Honestly, for me, this was part of my vacation planning. To get away, clear my mind, and have some much needed uninterrupted time to get some of my thoughts down on paper, so to speak. Of course, part of my trip has not gone quite according to plan (as is oftentimes the case). I had hoped that while my family was out hitting the slopes, I would have time to myself. In between catching up on some reading and finally finishing that scarf I had started, and writing some really profound articles on compensation (or other intriguing subjects)! Wah, wah, wah …

Yet, I had not meant for the “hitting the slopes” to be literal. Day one, hour one, my 13-year-old did just that … hit the slope (bunny slope that is) resulting in a broken arm. Dang you snowboarding! So after 4 hours in the ER, a hilarious video taken of my son after he came out of whatever “slumber” they put him in to “reset” his arm (oh the CRACKING sound), the time I had planned for myself now includes my mood-swing teenager in tow.

Now … back to work!

Interestingly, the study conducted by Alamo reports that “vacation shaming” is more prevalent among millennials. These feelings of guilt for planning and taking a vacation are up nearly 10% (68 % vs. 59% percent in the 2016 study), with 40% (up from 17% in 2016) reporting that the shaming would keep them from actually planning or going on vacation. However, millennials also report that they are more likely than other generations to shame their own co-workers, up nearly 20% from the 2016 study. The study also indicates that only 1 in 5 employees will actually use their vacation time to get away for vacation as opposed to staying home and running errands, etc., (AKA the “staycation”).

Findings in a related article, The State of American Vacation: How Vacation Became a Casualty of our Work Culture conducted by Project: Time Off, an organization that studies American vacation trends, report that simply planning for a vacation increases vacation time used, significantly improving relationships at home and lowering stress. The study also reports that those who plan for vacation and decide ahead of time how “connected” they choose to be will have a much more successful vacation aimed at doing what it is intended to do: regroup, refresh and relax!

I understand the premise for sure, but because of where I work, I never feel guilty about taking a day off or feel “shamed” in any way. In fact, I work with an amazingly supportive team who are always willing to help and pick up the slack when/if needed. That being said, we are provided with many arrangements to flex our schedules, and work from home or coffeehouse (if that’s what we prefer). Because of this flexibility, I don’t feel guilty about working some while on vacation. I am extremely engaged and love my job, so to me, this doesn’t feel like work.

Don’t get me wrong, I plan to take full advantage of the vacation time I have this summer, yet during times like Spring Break, because of the flexibility I have during my normal schedule, I still get the “recharge” I need while catching up on a few things and staying in the loop.

However, I plan to do a better job of planning time-off and share these findings with my co-workers. We are all guilty of taking work home or on vacation with us. While I definitely work with an outstanding group of individuals, we could all benefit from fully taking advantage of the time off we are provided and disconnecting as much as possible, not only for our benefit but for the benefit our organization as well. Perhaps we should make an annual day of it and plan out our time off. I suggest you consider doing the same!

Happy Vacationing!



Wrapped Gifts Retirement Party 7-8-09 8

Non-profits face many unique challenges when establishing executive compensation which oftentimes deals with issues like regulatory compliance, board governance, limited budgets and equitable pay across the organization. Non-profits typically have a Board of Directors who have a financial responsibility when setting executive pay to ensure that it is “reasonable and not excessive.” This poses an ongoing challenge for many boards who are trying to be reasonable while either recruiting for top/key talent or retaining qualified and knowledgeable Executive Directors in non-profits, where the area of expertise is oftentimes very specialized.

Past vs. Present: It used to be that Executive Directors in a non-profit were typically paid much less than their counterparts (CEO/President) in for-profits, but over time that gap has gotten much smaller. While there is an obvious difference in what drives a for-profit vs. non-profit, non-profits are recognizing that in order to be successful, they have to employ talented individuals and that comes at a much higher price tag. Research shows that non-profits are being compensated competitively (base salary) compared to that of for-profits, yet the greatest disparity exists in total compensation which may include healthcare, deferred compensation, incentive pay and any other perks that may be prevalent in the for-profit sector.

A good way to overcome some of the challenges when establishing executive compensation is to have a formal philosophy and strategy created and implemented. This philosophy/strategy is oftentimes developed by the board and will include how pay decisions are made (the process and who will be involved), when adjustments will be made, and the basis of salary vs. total compensation (healthcare, deferred compensation, performance, etc.).

Performance of EDs, which is tied to incentive compensation, can be a grey area. It isn’t uncommon for a non-profit to be scrutinized for rewarding Executives with additional compensation for a job well-done. As the mission of most non-profits is purpose driven, many feel that any additional cash flow should go to the purpose and mission itself rather than in the pocket of the Executive.

That being said, if the success of the non-profit has surpassed far and above the budgets of earlier years, it is likely due to the efforts of the Executive providing exemplary leadership to the organization. So why shouldn’t they be rewarded (as long as it is reasonable and not excessive)? As mentioned earlier, many EDs have a specialized set of credentials, and if they are successfully leading the organization, it is best to retain this key talent to solidify more successful years to come.

It is prudent to tie any sort of incentive pay to overall performance of the organization whether it be based on things like revenue/budget growth, net income/operating surplus, customer service/quality, etc. However, the overall make-up of the organization should never be overlooked.

Total budget, total number of employees/personnel costs, overhead costs, etc. should always be taken into consideration when establishing total compensation whether or not it includes any form of incentive pay, and different scenarios should be run and evaluated regularly to establish a plan that will benefit all parties involved.



Math Learning Center

From its inception in 1976, this Salem, Oregon nonprofit has been committed to addressing the needs of classroom teachers and their students. Did you know…

  1. The Math Learning Center (MLC) grew out of a project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to improve the teaching of mathematics. Its founders (Dr. Eugene Maier, Don Rasmussen and David Raskin) spent several years traveling to schools to observe classrooms and visit with teachers and students.
  2. A few years later a convincing body of research emerged suggesting visual approaches to teaching and learning have universal validity. After experimenting with a variety of applications to math education and with additional NSF funding, MLC refined their curriculum into an integrated system of visual models that build across the grade levels.
  3. MLC has since expanded its offerings to include a full range of products and support services that focus on developing in students a deep understanding of math concepts, proficiency with key skills and the ability to solve new and complex problems. Today, MLC’s elementary math programs are used in over 25,000 classrooms across the United States and in a dozen international locations.
  4. In 2012 MLC launched its first free math app and over the last five years the collection has grown to nine apps. Earlier this year total downloads of these apps from the iTunes store exceeded 2,000,000.
  5. In addition to free apps, MLC’s commitment to giving back to the education community includes materials grants, a program for universities, math education scholarships, and over 200 free lessons and activities on their website.

Cascade is pleased to feature The Math Learning Center, an employer dedicated to inspiring and enabling individuals to discover and develop their mathematical confidence and ability.

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