I like one of one blog posts named “Employee Engagement: Energizing and Mobilizing People” written by Dr. George H. Labovitz and Victor Rosansky from the Google Reader Bundle you recommended. It was posted on http://www.greatleadershipbydan.com. In today’s world of uncertainty where economy is in turmoil, companies need to make necessary adjustments to their business models and quickly needs to realign their strategies considering the pace of technological, competitive, and social changes. To make this realignment happen rapidly it is very important that employees are engaged on all levels so that the employees are energized to move the organization in new and better direction. Authors argue that it is the responsibility of the top management to energize the system. This energy needs to be focused. The focused energy could drive the continuous improvement within the organization and work towards achieving the common goal and vision of the company. A survey conducted by Gallup, Inc. reports that a world class organization has higher percentage of engaged workforce as compared to the average performing companies.
The percentage stands at 67% for a world-class company against 33% for an average performing company. These numbers show how instrumental employee engagement is for the success of an organization. The employees who are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” coast along and pick their pay checks resulting in sucking all the energy of everyone around them. Authors argue that the engagement and alignment are two different things. They claim that 40 percent of the “engaged” employees do not align their behavior with the organizational goal. A huge lost opportunity is lost if managers fail to connect people to the vision and the strategies of the organization. Authors suggest the top management few ways for achieving greater employee engagement. They suggest that the leaders should listen to the employees carefully, they should create a common purpose and they should give people greater ownership of their work.
These are the few things we learned in our class when we discussed topics such as “Inspire a shared vision” “Enable others to act” in “Leadership Challenges” book. Authors suggest that the leaders should be ready to listen to the employees and find out what they want. Their inputs need to be considered in decision making. This results in increasing the employee engagement. Once the leaders know about what their employees think is important, they can create a common purpose using their aspirations. They can try to explain the employees how achieving the common vision is going to help them accomplish their goals. The authors recommend that the leaders should keep employees continuously connected to the environment in which they operate. They should know what is at stake (task significance) and how their daily work activities support the strategy.
Leaders should try to paint “big picture” for the employees that could help them think holistically. Proper reward system should be in place so that any effort towards realizing the common vision is recognized. Top management needs to make effort to create opportunities for people to communicate and interact with each other within or across various departments. Authors recommend that leaders should encourage participative management that gives people greater ownership of their work. It forms the building blocks of quality and process improvement programs. By giving subordinates a long leash, leaders can to back their employees, trust and respect their employees. This participate management approach works best when the leaders do not know the answers either, or when they want input and buy in, or when they are managing change within the organization. In my previous job, I got an opportunity to closely see how the employee engagement is critical for an organization’s success. The senior management was used to invite all the staff to the annual strategic planning meetings for deciding the “Top Ten” projects for the each year.
They would actively seek suggestions and ideas from the employees to improve the current process and increase productivity. After getting various ideas and suggestions from the employees, all these ideas would be discussed and debated using brainstorming and nominal group technique. This double loop learning experience encouraged all the employees to actively engage with the vision of the company. Since employees’ inputs were considered in decision making, and the projects were selected from employees own ideas, they would always feel a sense of ownership and responsibility towards the success of the project. Top management promoted open door policy. The top management would let everyone know how the company’s last year financial performance was and how each individual functional area contributed towards the bottom line of the company. It would give employees a big picture of the company performance and help them think holistically.
This would also help them understand task significance of their own work and how significant their work is for the success of the company and how their tasks fit with the strategy of the company. This would also provide them an opportunity for engaging actively in other areas where they lack the expertise. The productivity gains through these initiatives were tremendous and helped the company to save millions of dollars. People were rewarded for working towards the success of the projects. In case average performing companies employees are not encouraged to perform because the environment and culture of the organization are not rewarding additional efforts resulting in poor performers getting rewarded at the same level as the good performers. But this was not case at my old work place. People were recognized at the annual, monthly and weekly meetings for their contributions. This type of work culture helped make work more meaningful for employees giving some tangible results.
The open door policy helped foster collaboration among employees across various departments generating a strong sense of shared creation and shared responsibility. It created a climate of trust and facilitated relationships. The top management always shared information about the company health, sales, revenues, newly received customers etc. which helped to calm the nerves of the employees during the economic crisis that started in 2007. This fostered trust among the employees. Employees were ready to go above and beyond their duties to get projects completed on or before time. This helped our company not only to weather the economic crisis but to emerge stronger than before through it. Our business unit was the only one to give EBIT based bonuses among our sister companies at a time when most of our competitors were struggling to survive or had to shut down their operations. The transformational leadership of our business unit VP inspired all the employees.
Thus it is critical for an organization to engage with its employees actively and make sure they are aligned with the main thing (vision of the organization) the organization is focusing upon in todays’ fast paced social, technological, competitive environment. Employee engagement can be achieved through work recognition, motivation, relationship building and valuing their inputs. Proper and frequent communication between employees and managers is critical in increasing engagement that helps individuals to understand their personal role in the success of the company by realizing the common vision. Promoting health and well-being of employees and their families, encouraging work-life balance, supporting the local communities are important factors for increasing the level of employee engagement. This was demonstrated by the example we discussed in the class. SAS under the leadership of Jim Goodnight was able to produce astounding results by making employee engagement an integral part of sustainability programs, from planning to implementation.