Fix Employee Disengagement in 2017
Two articles posted by Gallup in late December detailed the greatest opportunity any organization has to make more money:
- Do a better job of engaging, supporting, motivating and focusing employees on the meaningful role each plays in the enterprise’s success.
- Give them clear direction about how best to fulfill that role.
- Provide full access to the resources they need to achieve their assigned goals through that role.
The first article gave us the bad news: 24% of employees worldwide are disengaged from their roles at work, and even from the company as a whole. This has a strong, negative impact on productivity. When a manager estimates that he or she is obtaining about 60% of the total potential contribution an employee could give if properly engaged and motivated, that disengagement is what the manager is reporting out.
The writers put the blame on the managers, rather than the employees. While we consider engagement a two-way street, manager do have a strong role to play in raising engagement and unleashing greater productivity.
“Compared with disengaged teams,” writers the author, “engaged teams show 24% to 59% less turnover, 10% higher customer ratings, 21% greater profitability, 17% higher productivity, 28% less shrinkage, 70% fewer safety incidents and 41% less absenteeism.”
Our own experience with the multi-billion-dollar Shell Stones project confirms this. In an industry where safety incidents are commonplace, a dedicated program of leadership development led to the raised engagement levels needed to run the entire project without a single safety incident. That is a huge testament to the power of fully engaged, empowered and directed employees that is there for the taking for any organization that invests the time and money to achieve that goal. And this really is low-hanging fruit to be harvested if effective, sustained investments in human development are made.
“If managers who don’t know how to manage people don’t understand the effect of their behavior on team engagement,” notes the Gallup author, “they can’t assess their own impact. And if their teams don’t have the opportunity to confidentially rate their managers via an employee engagement survey or other means, there’s no measurable or meaningful way for managers to evaluate their effectiveness. Managers may even be afraid to ask for help, for fear of appearing weak or ineffectual.”
The second article took the positive angle, asking “Can Bad Managers be Saved?” The authors answered “yes,” if development programming is sustained and consistent throughout the organization.
Here are the four reasons for poor middle-management leadership on employee engagement initiatives cited in the article:
Lack of knowledge (“I don’t know how.”): Managers need the training, learning opportunities and ongoing coaching that teaches them how to get to know people, understand their motivations, read their behavior properly, and respond to all this input constructively.
“They may not know how to start a dialogue or how to determine next steps,” note the authors. “They may not fully understand that their responsibility for people management is as great as their responsibility for task management. And companies need to support — without punishing — managers as they learn how to better manage people. Most managers want to do a good job, but some of them just don’t know what to do.”
Lack of belief (“I don’t believe in engagement.”): They need the value of engagement demonstrated for them. Dedicated leadership development, and follow-up coaching and mentoring, must be built on input from within the organization using assessment tools like team profiles, triads, 360-degree and skip-level interviews. Build awareness of the problems, and the potential, then build on that foundation of understanding.
“Research shows that leaders who engage their direct teams will see those results cascade down as others emulate their behaviors. This should remind leaders to start working on their own engagement. The more engaged the top team members are, the better they can engage others.”
Walk the talk, senior managers!
Lack of talent (“I just cannot work with people.”): A 2014 Gallup study in Germany helps explain managerial dysfunction: “When we asked managers why they believed they were hired for their current role, about half cited their expertise and tenure in their company or field (51%) or their success in a previous non-managerial role (47%).”
If a company is not going to embed the need to manage people well in their job requirements, they need to invest in providing the programs to turn excellent technicians into capable people managers.
Anyone can lead if taught how.
Systemic barriers (“It’s outside of my control.”): “Senior management is responsible for addressing systemic barriers and must deal with them before they hold managers solely accountable for disengagement.”
We fix these people-skill gaps every day for clients. It is why our co-founder Dave Tighe often says “we work for free.” Companies get so much more productivity from shrinking or eliminating engagement gaps that the money invested in the program always pays off in a matter of months. That is why we are so comfortable guaranteeing our work!
Are you ready to bridge or shrink these profit-draining employee engagement gaps in 2017? Let’s talk about how to get started!