June 25, 2008

Engage and get productive!

Find out who makes it rain on engagement! You may be surprised.

In my previous post, we discussed engaging employees. Is engagement ONLY for the R & D palace or your office? When lunching with the owner of a high end printing company, he shared a story of a complex printing challenge they faced for one of America’s top retailers They wanted all of the loose pages of a portfolio to be held together and no one could figure out how to do it. One of the operators came up with a binding solution that no one had ever thought of, and certainly not their competition. What was the result? A bright, inventive and engaged employee found the binding solution that put the printed materials in the hands of each of their customer’s retail employees. Win – Win. But while this was clearly an enlightened and engaged manager, there are barriers that can stop this creativity dead in its tracks. Let’s learn more.

First go figure that if approximately 75% of employees leave because of their bosses’ bad behavior, we can simply do the disengagement math. Sure, the highly motivated go-getter will continue to slough on through the ranks, seeking opportunity where they may. But they may be the exceptions.

How long does the turn off take? According to the Gallup Organization, the problem usually begins in the first six months when an average of over 60% of employees switches off. This is basically due to the perceived realization that their expectations are not going to be met.

In all of the research on employee engagement, one person is dominant in both modeling the appropriate behavior and setting clear expectations of team performance. That person is the manager. When this is effective, engagement kicks in and retention and attraction become part of the culture.

For me, a clear example of that power is a branch bank manager of my acquaintance. Jan has been moved several times and for good reason. She gets organizations in shape. When you walk into her branch, you are greeted, your needs promptly identified and well served. And even if the answer is “no”, it makes business sense.
How does her staff respond to her management style? They adore her and often recount to others when they have moved up to higher management that she was the best boss they ever had.

Employee engagement is nothing new in the corporate workforce; the idea dates back to the mid-1940s when Peter Drucker wrote "The Concept of the Corporation." The late management thinker concluded that corporate management could achieve sustainable profits only by treating employees like valuable resources.

While countless management gurus have added to the argument over the years, the idea remains the same: empower workers with decision-making tools, deliver more control over work structure and provide guaranteed compensation.

You’ve seen it happen many times. An organization that provides top wages and benefits loses a great employee to a competitor for no apparent reason. Of course, some employee turnover is to be expected, but if your company is truly engaging your employees, there is no good reason for the unexpected loss of quality staff members. Many companies already know that wages and benefits are important to employees, but compensation alone is not enough to keep the highly skilled, motivated and experienced workforce your business needs to excel.

So what have we learned about engagement? Clearly, the solution, the only solution, is working and training the manager. Nothing, nothing at all, works like the direct boss knowing and owning what they need to do for and with their people. For they have people who want to learn, want to succeed and want to grow into new levels of responsibility. There is no one better than the direct manager to help them achieve that goal.

1 comment:

Shirley Fine Lee said...

Find more on what was said on the Gallup Management Journal’s Employee Engagement Index in 2006 article at http://gmj.gallup.com/content/24880/Gallup-Study-Engaged-Employees-Inspire-Company.aspx