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Employee Engagement

03 Apr 2012 · Connect

A lot of my recent work has involved looking at employee engagement within companies I work with.

While checking out relevent research on-line I discovered this insightful article.

The following blog is an abridged version of an article by John Laurent of http://www.action-learning.co.nz I enjoyed reading at http://www.employmenttoday.co.nz

This article sets out to illustrate a simple approach to increasing employee engagement.

The formula for raising engagement levels is simple and it works, says John Laurent. Develop leaders who value finding out from employees what is wrong, and help leaders to help employees fix what is wrong.

According to a Towers Perrin study of 90,000 employees in 18 countries conducted in 2007-2008, “companies with the most engaged employees had a 19 percent increase in operating income during the previous year, while those with the lowest levels had a 32 percent decline.”

Studies also show that only 20 percent of employees are fully engaged, 40 percent are capable but not committed, and 40 percent are disenchanted and disengaged.

With the right toolkit and with support from the top, a facilitator can apply the process and, where it is followed to its conclusion, a measured increase in employee engagement will occur.

Leaders who are interested in finding out from staff what they really think is wrong and then acting on this are relatively rare.

Too often, workforce perceptions are dismissed as “vague and woolly”, “not relevant to improving the bottom line” or “critical of the leader or others and therefore embarrassing, contagious, hurtful, spiteful, disruptive, etc”. In my opinion these leaders are misguided.

This also means that the majority of leaders and professionals operate to some degree in a more defensive mode.

Coaching and training will be required to move them in the direction prescribed by the ideal leader model. It is not my intention to explore leadership development in detail except to point out how problem-solving facilitation supports leadership growth.

The orientations of the most effective leaders are:

•High Achievement meaning motivated by own goals, seeking problems to fix and wanting to understand problems before deciding, seeking excellence, acting to improve things.
•High Self Actualising meaning non-defensive about self and wanting to understand what is real rather than phoney.
•High Humanistic Encouraging meaning sees best in others, seeking to develop others and involve others in decisions that affect them.

The following examples are typical of problems that were sitting under the surface in actual teams.

Once these were put on the table the teams were able to implement solutions that made a lot of sense and moved the organisations forward.

A manufacturing company supervisory team identified a pattern of misunderstanding in the communication between the schedulers and supervisors. When remedied, this lead to savings of half a day per month in production set up times. Opportunity grasped.

An inwards goods store team were concerned about the number of times they rejected consignments from a supplier owing to their own company’s changing schedules. When they measured the frequency of the problem, they found it didn’t happen as often as they thought and when they shared this data with their supplier they were told they were one of the more reliable customers. Problem disappeared.

A team identified the behavior of one member as their biggest problem. The resulting uproar was uncomfortable at the time, but the disrupter left the company and performance improved significantly. Problem solved.

A senior team followed the process of dealing with their problems right through a long list. Not only did their own team’s engagement (as measured in a survey) increase substantially, but their change had the effect of substantially increasing the entire firm’s measured engagement levels—an unforeseen benefit.

Some points to note

•Emphasis needs to be on team members, not managers, implementing the actions wherever possible.
•Some problems, after discussion, are unable to be solved (eg, world economic conditions). However, sometimes just recognising this helps get the problem into perspective.
•I am always surprised how creative teams can be when they brainstorm solutions to seemingly intractable problems. In large complex organisations, many problems stem from the actions of other departments. This is not to say that teams are helpless victims of others’ actions. Often the solutions involve simply talking to the other department, involving them in solving the problem or recording statistical data and providing feedback.

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  • peter03 Apr 2012

    Thanks for this write up! If you are a business man then it’s your duty to set up peaceful working surroundings for your employees. This will create a good impression of you on their minds. Besides this, break up the complex process into several simpler one to avoid the complexity. go to this site

  • Annick Janson03 Apr 2012

    The Wall Street Journal article about engagement (http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323495604578539712058327862) brings more light to the reality of the costs of staff disengagement… some managers lure themselves that because their employees are physically present, this means they are engaged. But does this guarantee that staff add value to the workplace? In actual fact, if employees are not excited about the work they do, their mind is somewhere else…

    I remember reading in the 2010 Gallup global survey that 82% of New Zealanders are either disengaged or ‘actively disengaged’ in the workforce. Gallup has worked out a formula to calculate the costs of staff disengagement due to absenteeism, quality issues, stress etc… and they are staggering in millions.

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