Las Vegas 2023

Unlocking High Performance: The Power of Employee Engagement at ADP

Unlocking High Performance: The Power of Employee Engagement at ADP


Charles Lafferty

Senior Director – Application Development, ADP





Uh, welcome to the, uh, afternoon plenary sessions. Um, how have the talks been so far?


Fantastic. Okay. We have some fantastic, uh, talks this afternoon. So, up first is, uh, Chuck Lafferty. He's Senior Director of Application Development at ADP. Um, ADP was first founded in 1949, offering payroll services. It now serves 1 million clients, uh, in over 140 countries. In 2022, they had $16 billion in revenue. So Chuck gave a fantastic presentation last year. What caught my attention in his talk was incredible research that ADP has done on employee engagement. Uh, so over the last year, Chuck and I have been corresponding and I've been blown away by the fantastic research that ADP research has done discussing employee engagement and what leaders can do to enable it. So what is so remarkable about this talk is that Chuck has been using those findings as well as the, uh, sodo, uh, accelerate body of work to help his teams build the tools to help other ADP employees do their work easily and well, so they can be more engaged to help them better achieve ADP goals. So here to share this awesome meta, circular tale is Chuck.


Alright, everyone, by a show of hands, how many people has got a new job or had a teammate switch jobs in the last two years? Look at that. Look around the room. Look at many people. Raise their hands there. So what happened over the last two years, 2022, was the height of the great resignation. It's harder than ever to retain talent at your companies. And you know what, what keeps you at your job? And my manager's out there? How are you gonna retain your talent at ADP? It's easy to find people who have been there for 10, 20, 30, 40, even 50 years. People joined when they were, were 18 years old. And I've seen the recognition. So what keeps people there? What keeps me there? I'm one of those people. I worked at ADP for 13 years now, and I'll tell you what, I had managers who cared about me.


I had growth opportunities, learning opportunities, I had challenging things to work on. I had a team that cared about each other. And so with that, there was a something there that I didn't realize what it was until I became a manager. And that thing is called engagement. It's called employee engagement. I was engaged. And so with that veil there now lifted, I can see it. I wanna talk to you all about employee engagement and I'm gonna try to convince you that employee engagement is a secret weapon that's gonna help you increase your profitability, your productivity, and your retention for your teams. And I'm gonna give you tips about how all of you can use it in your day-to-Day jobs. Alright, let's get into it a little bit about ADP. Um, ADP is coming up on its 75th birthday. Uh, it was founded in 1949. As Gene said, we are a human capital management company. So we do everything from hiring to retiring. So you can think of like payroll, talent tax, um, benefits like 4 0 1 kss. We moved $3.1 trillion through the US through the economy in, in client funds in fiscal year 2022. And there's a good chance that some of you out here might see our logo on your pay stub as we pay one in six US workers, private sector US workers in the us


Alright, employee engagement. First, let's define it, let's get on the same page what engagement means. And this is from Dr. Mary Hayes and Marcus Buckingham in the definitive series employee engagement study they did in 2020. And what it is, is they define it as the emotional state of mind that causes people to do their best work sustainably. So I know we talk a lot about sprints. This is more of a marathon here. When you're working at, at a company for a long time, I think it's a great definition. What it, what it tells us is you're gonna bring your whole self to work every day. You're gonna come to your job, you're gonna like your job and you're gonna do a great job at it. So when you love your job and you like what you do, that's a strength. When you don't like what you're doing but you're good at it, that's a task.


You can get burnt out on that when you love what you're doing, but you're not very good at it. That's called a hobby. People might not pay you for that. Alright, so now we know what employee engagement is. What's the impact of that? How do we measure it? Alright, first let's talk about what happens when you have really highly engaged teams. The first one, this, this study has a very long title. The business unit relationship between employee satisfaction, employee engagement, business outcomes, and Meta-analysis and the Journal of Applied Psychology. This is one of the seminal studies in this field. And what it proved, um, here, there was research done by 7,000 business units in 36 different companies. And they found that companies in the top quartile, the business units in the top quartile, the top 25% of engagement had a one to 4% higher profitability than their peers.


Also, companies who had engagement in the top quartile had 80,000 to $120,000 higher monthly revenue. So what's happening here, this one is about employee engagement and retention. Here what we found, and this one is from the ADP Research Institute, ADP has a research institute where we actually study employee engagement and employees. And here we found that employee engagement and retention have a correlation. So what they did was they measured the people who left the company versus the people who stayed at the company for that same period of time. And they found a relative difference of 28% in the people who were fully engaged. So the people who left the company, only 32% of them were fully engaged versus the people who stayed with the company in that same time period, 41% of them were fully engaged. So retention and engagement have an impact. Employee engagement and profits, it's hard to measure developers, it's hard to measure their productivity, but you can measure salespeople 'cause they're gonna sell something and here they're gonna sell it or they won't.


And so we are able to compare are the salespeople engaged and how are they performing? So what the ADP Research Institute found here in the definitive series employee engagement, that the teams that were in the bottom quartile of engagement, the lowest engaged folks in the, in the company, they failed to meet their performance target by 7%. Meanwhile, the folks who were highly engaged, the top quartile they achieved, they exceeded their performance targets by 4%. This proves that your bottom line is impacted by employee engagement. Finally, performance. How do you do it? Your job? Okay? Turns out that the low performers, so taking the folks who are the lowest performers in the company, 36% of them are fully engaged. Meanwhile, the folks in your top quartile, the best performers in your company, 52% of them fully engaged. Definitely a correlation here. And guess what? Your manager is two times more likely to rate you a high performer if you're fully engaged.


So what does that mean? That means that you want a promotion, you want a new task, you want a new thing you wanna do in the company, you wanna move laterally. What are you gonna do? Be fully engaged. 'cause your manager's gonna recognize it and this data proves it. How do we measure engagement? Alright, I talk a lot about being fully engaged. What does that mean? Fully engaged? How do we measure engagement? ADP has a tool called standout. It's a tool you can actually buy if you wanted to, right? And this is how we measure it throughout the company. So every quarter a survey goes out to the entire company. We ask these eight questions, okay? The questions are broken down into we questions and me questions. And I talked to Dr. Mary Hayes last week sometime and she told me that the we questions are the reasons why we, why we join the company.


And the me questions are the reasons why we stay. So these are a great balance between creating a great culture and work environment and also feeling challenged to grow. Okay? And they're broken down into purpose, excellent support and future. We don't ask questions like, what's the strategic direction of my company? You're the typical person's not gonna know that unless they're talking to every single, um, you know, talking to the CIO or CEO or reading every single article about it. But you can answer questions like, my teammates have my back or I know I'll be recognized for excellent work. Or in my team I'm surrounded by people who share my values. And I was talking to somebody yesterday and they were saying like, well what about psychological safety? I was like, you know, kind of these questions are kind of like psychological safety questions. My teammates have my back.


And I was like, it kind of fits there. So, so this is how we measure it. Now the ADP has a proprietary algorithm to figure out whether or not you're fully engaged. But I encourage you all to check out the tool. It's called standout. Okay? So now you know how we measure engagement, okay? Let's talk about teams and developers. Alright? Right. This slide blows my mind, this blows my mind here. Team leaders matter a lot. So how are you gonna get your developers engaged? How are you gonna get the outcomes that I just talked about in, in more productivity, more profitability and higher retention for your company? Turns out managers, frontline managers, there's a 99.96% chance that your team will not be fully engaged unless that frontline manager's engaged. This is black and white, this is as good as it gets because you now know that you need to have fully engaged frontline leaders.


When that, and this was over a three year period they did this study. When the team leader is fully engaged, there's a 65% chance that that team will also be fully engaged. So this is kind of counterintuitive, you think like, oh, I have to go and make sure all of my employees are fully engaged. What you should be doing is making sure your frontline managers are fully engaged. Then you can scale that throughout the entire company. Teams trust and leadership. Just being on a team, just being on a team, you're 2.6 times more likely to be fully engaged. So that tells us build teams trust. When an employee says that they trust their frontline manager, their first manager, they're 14 times more likely to be fully engaged. So what does that mean? We need to have managers who are fully engaged. They need to be building teams, they need to be building trust.


So how the heck do we build trust with teams? I like throwing, I like throwing slides like this up here. I know there's a lot of words on it, but what I like to do is plant seeds. I'm planting seeds in all your heads so you can come up later on and and ask me questions about some of these. Um, I have 27 things, 27, I call 'em common sense engagement tips. I'm gonna explain four of them to you. The first one I call explain why. So how do you engage a development team? How do you engage any team? Really explain why you're making the choices you're making. It's as easy as that. Alright? When you explain the choices you're making, they can go above and beyond. They can go do things that you never thought of yourself when you gave them that task. As long as you're giving 'em the goal, do one-on-ones.


One-on-ones is the foundation of a relationship. It's the foundation of trust. So what I want you to do is if you're a manager out there or just a team lead or just a, just a member of the team, build relationships with people that's gonna build trust with people. And what's gonna happen here is you wanna know, you wanna find out about how their wife's doing, how their kid's doing, what they wanna do in their job, how they wanna succeed. You're gonna be able to build trust and help them out better. Listen actively, no matter the idea. I always give a little story here. I say come with any idea to me, right? And what happens is that ideas is a numbers game. There can be a thousand ideas but only like 10 of them are great ideas. But you never wanna discourage the idea giving.


So we listen actively, no matter the idea. I always say if you came to me and said, Chuck, I wanna use Excel as a database, I said, all right. I said, let's listen, let's talk, let's talk, let's figure out how we can use Excel excel's data. I'm gonna build on that with you. Turns out Excel might not be the best database and through the source of that conversation, we're not gonna use it. That's fine. But I didn't tell that person no, because I want them to come with the next one, which might be brilliant. The next one, align opportunities with PO's interest. Why is this so important? Is because when you give someone the thing that they want to do and the thing that they're most passionate about, they're gonna do 10 times more work. Why? Because they're engaged. They wanna do it right? So align their interests.


If they're coming to and saying, you know, I wanna work on a Russ project, give them the project, right? It might blow their minds. Final last one is just care. Just care about your team. Um, what happens with caring is it's double-edged because you could be doing one-on-ones, you can be invested in somebody and guess what? They might leave your company and it hurts. It hurts when they leave. And you can say to yourself, I'm not gonna do that anymore. I'm not gonna invest in people. But guess what? When you care what happens is we celebrate them when they leave the company. 'cause you might have given 'em the confidence, could do something bigger and better than what they were doing there. And you know what? Karma kicks in. There could be other opportunities for you in the future as you connect. Alright? Listen to your team.


I've heard people here talk about tech debt. I don't call it tech debt, I call it innovation ideas. You know, people don't wanna be on the tech debt team, but you put 'em on the innovation team. Well, they wanna be on that team. Alright? So when you come with innovation ideas and innovation ideas, reducing build times an innovation idea is making a webpage more performant. Whenever you hear your team say, Hey, we talk about it, but we never do anything about it. That's your signal as a leader or a team lead to go out there, get that thing on the backlog and do it in the next sprint or the next quarter. Survey roulette. Survey roulette is fun for the enga for the engagement of development team. We do a lot of surveys at ADP. And so one thing, we have an open text box with our applications and we go back to the team and we say, you know, they're not gonna read all of the survey comments that come in.


Uh, but the surveys about our tool and whether or not people like it, I I run internal tools inside ADP. And so what happens is in the team meeting, we'll spend 15 minutes, we have like an architectural meeting, we get together and we say, okay John, would you like a good comment or a negative comment? And John will say, gimme a negative and we'll read, pick a, pick a random one. It builds empathy with the team and they get to solve the problem. Or they say, okay, gimme a good one, right? And maybe it's a feature that somebody worked on and they get pride in that feature that we talked about inside the survey. And finally here, when we talk about developer engagement, the one that I'm most proud of here, 'cause I love building teams, that's my favorite thing the most. This quote from Varun B is about, you know, whenever an issue pops up as a team, we try to resolve it rather than pointing fingers.


So easy to point fingers, so easy to close your laptop, forget about it and walk away. It's harder to take ownership of it. And that's what these teams do. When you're engaged, engaging the enterprise, how do you scale this engagement from an individual development team to an entire enterprise? Right? That's a hard thing to do, especially a company, a big company like ADP. So what you wanna do is you wanna create frictionless work. Think about it like this. How do you get happy clients? Well first you have to have happy employees. How do you have happy employees? You gotta give them a tool that doesn't drain their soul. <laugh>. Alright? So when you're building internal tools, again, we measure everything in terms of whether or not people like our internal tools. Um, you have to give them frictionless tools. This is gonna increase engagement. Think of a customer service rep calling your company and they're on the phone with somebody who's, who's having a really bad day because the thing they're trying to solve is not getting solved.


Meanwhile, that customer service rep can't use the tool that they're trying to solve the problem with, that's a really hard, that's a really hard thing. That person's not gonna be engaged. That customer service rep is not gonna be highly engaged because the tool that they're using is not very good. Alright, so how do we do this? How do we get this feedback loop going so we can give engagement to the entire company? So what we do is surveys. We send out surveys, we figure out is this something that's productive for the company? We do observations. I love us u user researchers. User researchers are my favorite people. 'cause they do these studies on your product and you get to see real time whether it's easy to use or how people can actually complete tasks in them. Seat rides. Seat rides is not, you know, flinging John from ops down the hallway in a, in a chair.


<laugh> seat rides is when you actually meet with the people who do the work on your tool. And so what happens is we'll go to our customer service reps or we'll go to the people that use our tools and we'll watch 'em use it. Super powerful gives you have so much good ideas. Um, whenever you call a company, say, Hey, you know, this call may be we monitored, may be monitored for training purposes. You can watch those recordings if there's big companies that do that stuff. And filing internal collaboration tools. Frequently asked questions from all this research that we've done in our products, I found four pillars that has come out from this four common themes. And what they are is people will first complain about they want a stable environment. They wanna make sure that the tool that they're using is gonna work every single time they click the button.


Next thing they'll complain about or they'll mention in the surveys is they'll say they want it easy to use. It wants to be a frictionless environment where they click the button, it works. And it's also, they don't have to do a lot of training. They want information at their fingertips. The problem is solved as soon as the website pops up. And if all else fails, they wanna be trained how to use it. If you do need to build a complex application, you need, you need to teach people how to use it. And so from that, this is not like in a book or anything, this is my own thing. I call it the product hierarchy of needs. And on the bottom of the pyramid here, I have stability and performance. If you don't have stability and performance, you don't have an application. So stop what you're doing and make sure the thing actually performs well and works above that is usability.


And usability. You want people to build features and you want them to be usable. So user researchers, UX designers, those folks are gonna really help with the usability. And then on top of that, we do training at last, that's the last one that we do is we do training. And there's other things in here like, you know, smaller, more frequent deployments. This has been discovered. It's true. It, it works in our company. Um, and of course, um, another, another fun thing we do is as we do these surveys and send stuff out, we might do a big push right before the survey happens to release a new tool with a feature flag. Or we might wait of the week while the survey goes out to release something that might be a little more risky and that helps, um, you know, increase that engagement with those associates.


So some comments here, um, some, some business leaders and some development managers about what happened when we do these types of things. And we get into survey feedback. So the first one here is listening to associates pain points and bridging the gap is exactly what these teams are doing. You're trying to encourage the feedback loop between the development team and the business. Collaboration between dev teams and business has been phenomenal. The the one that I like the most here is the survey feedback. The survey feedback to me has been positive. I personally have gotten feedback and appreciative associates that the teams are listening to their concerns and making improvements. What we do is, I call it closing the loop. We close the loop When someone comes to us with whatever thing they're, they're challenging they're facing or a bug in the application, what we do is we'll reach back out to that person. So they say, this application was slow, we got that fixed for you, we're gonna send it to you tomorrow. Um, I want this feature. Alright, guess what? We got the feature. Here's a screenshot Evan, I'm gonna send it back to that person. That increase engagement for us with, with the, with the actual users of the application. They appreciate it.


Alright, in conclusion, here's what I, here's a quote for you. Alright, to win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace by Doug Cohen. He's the former CEO of Campbell Soup. And um, also he runs his own leadership consulting firm right now. And, uh, what does this mean to me? What does this mean to win in the workplace? To me it means a couple of things. It means I'm achieving my goals, I'm achieving my OKRs. Um, it means that I'm delivering things on time. Uh, it also means that I have a, a happy, healthy, collaborative work environment. People who wanna work there, people who have jobs that feel fulfilled. Okay? How do we get there? And, you know, manager's job really is, is results and retention. So you have to balance having people stay while also still producing great results, challenging them to work harder or work smarter or do things for themselves.


Okay? So what did we learn here? We learned that you need to build your frontline leaders up and get them engaged, okay? And you need be engaged yourself. Alright? Um, we've learned that you need to build teams. We've also learned that you need to build trust and discover how to do these things, okay? And I gave you some great engagement tips of how you can do that. And if you do all these things and you're in your organization and, and what I want you to do is I want you to be the leader. I want you to be the person that's gonna be the change agent that's gonna do this stuff at your company, okay? And when you do that, I don't want you to just be the leader that just helps your one individual team or helps your one individual organization or helps your one individual company. I want you to help everybody. I want you to be the best leader in the world because that's what it's gonna take if you wanna be number one. So get out there, find ways to engage your employees and let that unleash in your company. And with that, I thank you for your time and hand it back.