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Lessons Learned From Harvey Wallbanger

Think what we could accomplish with a dash of dogged enthusiasm.

January 16, 2012
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A handsome Boston terrier aptly named Harvey Wallbanger lives at my house. 

My little dog is an enthusiastic, energetic, and spunky individual with a real zest for life.

Harvey knows his routine and mine. Our expectations of one another are obvious, despite the lack of a verbal or written contract. I know walks are promptly at 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.; he knows treats provide incentive for tricks.

He is unfailingly happy, whether basking in the sun, lounging in a chair, or chasing a squirrel in his canine quest for self-actualization.

I encourage Harvey’s individuality, even though sometimes he needs guidance in goal setting and achievement.

Lora Kloth is a research librarian at CUNA.
Lora Kloth is research librarian at CUNA.

Imagine if we could all be as consistently engaged and enthusiastic about our daily work as Harvey is in his day! Engaged employees bring innovative ideas, a friendly disposition, a “can-do” attitude, a spirit of cooperation, and increased productivity.

Challenges are embraced. Engaged employees speak well of their employers.

From my on-the-job observations, it appears these positive behaviors and attitudes are contagious, especially if the engaged employee is a motivated manager who inspires his or her team to levels of greatness. Ultimately, business and personal successes are inherently linked.

Let’s fetch some more research to see if you find any of it particularly engaging.

For a case study of engagement, see Gallup’s article, “Boosting Engagement at Stryker.”

Gallup’s research shows that “engaged employees are deeply committed to their employer, leading to key improvements in business outcomes, including reductions in absenteeism, turnover, shrinkage, safety incidents, and product defects.”

Note some doggone interesting news this week from overseas in “New Analysis Shows Employment and Social Policies Key to Europe’s Job-Rich Recovery” by Europa.

It “underlines that a mix of employment and social policies is necessary to ensure a long-term job-rich recovery in the current climate of fiscal consolidation and bleak economic outlook.”

Also on the job front, the Center for Economic Policy Research’s “Down and Out: Measuring Long-Term Hardship in the Labor Market” challenges us to rethink our understanding of long-term unemployment in two ways:

1. Broadening the definition of lengthy unemployment to “long-term hardship”; and

2. Complementing the standard measure of long-term employment (those out of work for six months or more) with an alternative measure, which reports the percentage of the total workforce that’s been unemployed for six months or more. 

The latter change allows for better comparisons across demographic groups.

Gallup offers some positive news on the job front, however slight. “Americans Slightly Less Pessimistic About Quality Jobs” reveals that 87% of Americans say it’s a “bad time” to find a quality job. That’s down from 90% in November but up from 84% a year ago. 

How do your members define a “quality job”? How does your credit union define one as an employer?

One more ball to chase on the employment topic presents itself in “Joblessness Leads to More Hungry & Homeless Families in U.S. Cities” by the U.S. Conference of Mayors. This report reveals “with joblessness in many cities reaching double-digits, unemployment was cited…as the main cause of hunger, followed by poverty, low wages and high housing costs.”

Survey respondents were asked for ideas on reducing hunger. Viable solutions included “affordable housing, increasing food stamp benefits, and expanding employment-training programs.” 

Does employee disengagement factor into unemployment problems for workers and employers alike? Are employers and policy makers able to work together on these issues? Do you have high turnover rates?

In the doghouse?

Dogged digging on the housing market turned up “The U.S. Housing Market: Current Conditions and Policy Considerations” by the Federal Reserve.

It says uncertainty and high unemployment are important variables in our weakened housing market, but further problems within the market itself continue to be burdensome: an excess supply of homes due to foreclosures, limitations on mortgage credit, and an “inefficient foreclosure process.

Brookings may be wondering if we are all in the doghouse in “What’s Wrong with American Housing?

The report targets nine deficiencies, including:

  • Lack of consumer willingness to purchase;
  • Lender unwillingness to work with foreclosure owners to keep them in their homes; and
  • Strict requirements for those who hope to obtain credit.

On your next dog walk, consider what’s happening in the West and implications for the rest of us, as recorded in the Urban Land Institute’s “The New California Dream: How Demographic and Economic Trends May Shape the Housing Market.”

We may be undergoing a housing shift if this report is a precursor. One possible California outcome: “If the homeownership rate falls by up to 10 percent from 2010 levels—a conceivable outcome if proposed changes to home mortgage finance are adopted—a wholesale shift will take place from owner-occupied homes to rental homes or split-tenure homes, where owners open their existing home to renters on a large scale.”

Despite the many problems facing our economy, our credit unions, and our lives, Harvey the Hound relishes every moment of every day, and enhances my life with his exuberance. We’re a great team. Woof! 

LORA KLOTH is a research librarian in CUNA's business-to-business publishing department.

Do!ggone Good Writing

Rachel Heldt
January 19, 2012 10:20 pm
Not only is this piece entertaining, it has a message we can all use. The doggy references throughout work well to tie divergent ideas together.


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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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