14 Oct Straight Talk About Employee Engagement

employee engagement starts at management levelA recent Gallup organization report (October 2013) states that “the bulk of employees worldwide – 63% – are “not engaged,” meaning they lack motivation and are less likely to invest discretionary effort in organizational goals or outcomes. And 24% are “actively disengaged.” Gallup’s analysts conclude, “Business leaders worldwide must raise the bar on employee engagement.”

Raising the bar on employee engagement is a challenge facing most companies and it’s not easy.

It’s a first step that must be taken by management:

But it has strong opposition.

For a start, natural human skepticism is strong. There is a fear of change that holds back progress on all levels.

Further, lack of regular communication breeds a fear of communication. Many managers feel it is not worth the risk to be the bearer of bad news. No one wants to be that messenger.

Regardless, moving towards engagement still requires that a first step be taken by management. The team has to take the second step, by communicating what needs to be fixed. I feel and see these two challenges here at Qualifirst. I need people to be open and to step up. I know I don’t have all the answers. I need for us as a team to get to a place where any team member will accept being the messenger – maybe even want to be the messenger, and will not feel at risk.

Here are the four major barriers to progress towards engagement that have been communicated to me over the years:

  1. Poor communication: Management displays an attitude of “I’m always right.”
  2. Under-appreciation: Management looks to identify mistakes rather than acknowledge people’s efforts.
  3. Micromanagement: Management shows little trust in employees and robs them of the ability to do their job.
  4. Unclear hierarchy: We have too many managers or incompetent managers.

No one who is currently in management at Qualifirst was hired as a manager. We were all hired as warehouse associates, and that includes myself.

Consequently, we don’t perceive that management-team divide that is supposed to exist. Many of us in management still feel that we are part of the original team, which might be nice on one level, but in fact blocks the path towards effective management. We need help in understanding the worker-management structure before we can start to break down the barriers to engagement.

These issues are too delicate to solve in a single blog post. I will need to better understand the problem from the team’s perspective, so that we can start to find a workable and lasting solution.

My commitment:

My commitment is to host a series of meetings to fully address this issue and to see the reality from every point of view.

My requests:

I request that team members be open with me and step up with issues and problems, because, as I have already stated, I don’t have the answers yet.

I request that for every problem identified, team members try to think of a solution themselves. This should feel less risky since it removes the aspect of employees feeling like the doomed messenger. They should hopefully feel that they are stepping forward with an opportunity for improvement. It should feel less risky with the possibility of benefit being greater. Furthermore, physically thinking of a solution helps to better understand the problem.

I request that if one co-worker approaches another with a problem, instead of commiserating, this should be seen as a challenge to find a solution and present it together.

Lastly, I request that every employee makes sure s/he is heard. This is no time to be subtle, or to simply make comments in passing. Team members should make it clear they have a point to make and I will listen until I get it.

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