Every discussion on this topic seems to come back to “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”. Employee engagement is seen as the Utopian solution to driving out measurements and introducing total commitment and great results.
Companies have done it.
Is it possible as a norm? And once you have achieved these high levels of engagement, is it possible to maintain them?
I think there is a tipping point in terms of size, in both directions. Too small, family type of bickering kicks in. Too large, maintaining consistency is challenging.
Every line manager needs to be a committed cheerleader, driven by passionate executive leadership. Psychology qualifications would be essential as each member of a team might have different motivators.
Strong identification with the team, division, branch, company has to be the way to go.
Look at Sharks and Man United supporters. They live the brand. Even when they are losing…
In order to identify, people need to feel included at every level. They need to know they matter. When watching after match interviews or award functions, the winners, and some gracious losers, always thank the fans. They know that the fans motivate their successes.
In business, we often forget that. Managers start to believe in their own success story, and fail to remember that they need to have every employee to be on board.
Every person should understand the purpose of the business. The story of the janitor who was sending a man to the moon resonated around the world (See notes) and is repeated regularly at strat sessions.
When the purpose is understood, the journey is more direct.
People do need to buy into the purpose, though. If it is just about the bottom line, there tends to be a more self interested approach. Today, many employees are looking for a “home from home” job, where they feel that their personal goals and objectives are aligned with that of the company.
So, KPAs and KPIs?
My feeling is that a broad definition of the position is important, guidelines create a level of comfort and a kick start.
But let your staff share their KPIs for the company, too. And listen to them.
Then it’s a mutual agreement where the objectives of the employee and the company align more closely. It’s not about appraising or measuring, more about finding the way to being more effective.
We want people to “think outside the box” while not “colouring outside the lines”. How does the average person understand that?
We limit people by implementing strict measurement criteria, and then are surprised when they stick to the rules and structure.
Utopia in the workplace?
I think when you accept it is an ongoing scenario, a circular journey, it becomes easier to move along the right path. You can have a group of perfectly aligned, engaged employees, introduce a new person or new concept, and find you have lost critical momentum.
We have been using our Maslow Employee Engagement Hierarchy for some years as a kick off for discussions around levels of engagement. Some manager’s use it once a year, some use it more regularly. It creates clarity and direction.
However, there is no substitute for regular, open conversations, trust, a clear direction, and passionate, involved, visible leadership.
Links, References and Notes
JFK and the Janitor
During a visit to the NASA space center in 1962, President John F. Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He interrupted his tour, walked over to the man and said, "Hi, I'm Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?"
"Well, Mr. President," the janitor responded, "I'm helping put a man on the moon."
To most people, this janitor was just cleaning the building. But in the more mythic, larger story unfolding around him, he was helping to make history.
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