Is it a matter worth the evaluation to know if an organisations workforce is actively engaged or actively disengaged? Indeed, yes it is. The debate stems from the basic premise, whether the objectives of the employer and employee are in step or not. The unanimity of purpose is a binding force. Any disequilibrium in this area of purpose would yield disaster to the organisation. Hence, the employer and employee have to ensure they remain on the same page, as regards corporate objectives are concerned. If this be the case, then the narrative would be singular, with no dichotomy. Is employee engagement therefore a myth? Is it non-achievable and non-practical? Let’s examine.
Any job or task calls for commitment and dedication. A mere run of the mill contribution can at best achieve mediocre results. Commitment transforms hope into reality. All effort must produce positive results. At the end of it all what matters most is how is the bottom line is impacted, positively or negatively.
A good manager in quest of keeping his workforce engaged towards common good will work towards identifying the distinction between working hard and working smart. Doing the mundane and the ordinary, day in and day out, will never take an organisation to a higher level of orbit. The routine, with no fresh challenges tires and bores out the workforce. The ramifications of a disengaged workforce are far and wide. It induces a culture of laxity. It consigns to backstage any process of accountability. It dispossesses the workforce of its inherent yearning for doing something new and worthwhile. In such situations, those in management are faced with the ultimate consequences of the cost of failure outstripping the rewards of success.
How does the manager then lift the game? First and foremost seek ‘engagement’ of all and sundry in the organisation. The end must be in mind, before the start of an initiative. This end must be shared with all. To each member it gives purpose to his task, however small and mean it may be. Martin Luther King had once said, ‘we must learn to live like brothers or we are going to perish together as fools’. Staff engagement gives purpose to action; a meaningful experience.
For a highly engaged workforce to be in place, significant recognition should be given to sharing of information. As an example, in meetings many invites sit through them without uttering a word- the chair should ask, ‘have you said, all that you should have said?’ If the answer is yes, the employee is bound by the proceedings and cannot put disclaimer to any non-performance. By drawing colleagues to speak at meetings and conferences, not only does the manager get their buy-in or otherwise, but also instils a very high dosage of confidence. A confident worker is always engaged and speaks his mind for corporate good.
Initiation of a new task a venture is always exciting. But over time, if it is not followed up through a proper methodology of measurement; the task would meet its death. Many good initiatives are lost for lack of active follow up. A worker, who is never sought for opinion or even small talk by his supervisor, will sooner or later fall off the table; for lack of engagement is a great de-motivator. As a supervisor, I have noticed that not making time for your reports is the single largest denominator of disengagement. They just get into a reclusive state of mind. Always follow up on each and every task assigned- this ensures ‘engagement’.
A strong sense of cooperation under tough and challenging conditions is guaranteed if the common objective is known to each. It is the excitement of challenge that moves any workforce into profitable action.
To achieve a resounding degree of enriched staff engagement a manager has to strive towards integrated thinking. There has to be a high degree of cross functional collaboration. Any gaps between field staff and back office functions must be bridged. The head office divisions must seek engagement through alignment with the objectives of the front office; this directly impacts upon sales and results.
Leadership across the hierarchy must appear to be genuinely engaged before expecting all other members to be committed and engaged. Occupational hobbies like attending the run of the mill meeting, every Tuesday at lunch, with trade association can easily be delegated to others; who would most willingly do so, for it may give them recognition, elation and standing.
For attaining a high percentage of engaged employees, manager s must have courageous stance to receive negative feedback. Managers must recognise that being in receipt of negative feedback is far better than not receiving any feedback- the all is well attitude can spell doom and disaster.
What does an engaged workforce bring to the table? A lot. A load. The importance of cross departmental information, which must be shared, is the single most important activity leading up to creating an engaged workforce. To hide information and containing to own-self is a major impediment to engagement. Our future managers must be geared to check if engagement triggers involvement of all and sundry.
Dr Frank Hopee describes, delegation is akin to a kite, won’t fly unless you give it enough slack to soar. While the managers soars they must reorganise their flight path often to see that the pack of co-worker are behind, following with passion.
In an engaged entity you will find colleagues giving voluntarily to each other. They help each other see new frontiers. The cumulative result of the countless small actions taken during the day will be small but it is always the small changes ushered in that go to make a great contribution, towards enhanced performance and results.
The writer is a senior banker and freelance columnist