The killers of productivity at work – engagement

Maybe you  have heard people at work  talking about engagement.  It is modern today to  talk about motivation and engagement. You will see it in the mouths of HR People,  mid and senior leaders, even the production line workers talk about it.  Companies measure it, departments draw strategies and plans to improve it.  But still engagement stays as a mythical  unicorn in the middle of a complex working structure, not understood but used to  keep  people in the companies and ensure they  meet goals and deliver results.

According to  a Gllup  research  from 2016  68% of companies leaders fell in engaging people to achieve results and grow company  business.  Doesn’t it look scary? I feel terrified knowing that most people don’t feel engaged with  the company  specifics and are only there because of hygiene factors like money, safety  of work place and convenience of the work hours. 

A short story  in my professional life has showed me how much  leaders don’t understand. Here it is:

More than 10  years ago  I have worked for a big company , represented in  more than 15 countries and with  employee population more than 150 000 people. I was part of the corporate HR department and had to  work with  most of the senior leaders in the company. My  boss was a very  people oriented HR professional  always ready  to  help  people and find ways to  keep  them within the company, showing them the meaning while we work. The company leadership  team was built from 3 people – CEO, COO and CFO. In most of the activities they  had equal  power and where able to  take independent decisions about the part of the business they  were responsible for,  without be judged by  the other two. Our department was positioned directly  under the CEO, a smart leader, thinking first about people and then on the sales.  But that was not the case with  the COO. The person holding this position was authocratic, with  no  understanding about people problems and needs, not communicating core company values expecting more to  be done, just for the sake of the sales increase. That  person strongly believed in the principle “If you  quit there is someone better to  replace you ”. Didn’t care about anyone in the structure responsible for and hiring people with  the same mindset in it’s team on a managerial  positions.   When we had meetings about how to keep  people engaged in work  the position of this person was like “take it or leave it”. It didn’t believe that people need positive boost, it was criticizing everyone and pointed to  others showing how much  they  don’t mean to her. After a year with  this situation and behavior  results started to impact the business –  we lost 15% of the operational  personnel and people from the COO team and also  other key teams started quiting. In less than 3 months we lost people on 27  key  positions. People who  started company  business in the country  and have grown it to it’s current state of a market leader where moving to similar companies, taking the knowledge with them and also  their contacts to make them successful  in their new roles and grow our competitors business.  In the next 6 months company  business has shrinked with 14% and then came the solution. The other two  senior leaders CEO and CFO has turned against the COO and have pushed in the company  headquearter for changing it. After that act they  took  over the business for the next 6 months and returned it to  growth by keeping people inside the company  and making radical  changes in the operational  unit responsible for more than 2000 employees in the country.

I had close relationship  then with  the CEO rather than the CFO,  so  I asked him to talk  about how did they  manage to  change this critical  for the company  situation. He shared with me his people vision of several  steps that  I’m using up  to  today to ensure success in my  and others work.

LOOK AT PEOPLE LIKE PEOPLE

The world is changing and demand for more work is growing, but even now you  need to  look  at the person next to  you not as a tool ,but as a living been with emotions,  personal  challenges and professional  fears. Building relationship  with others means to  understand and accept them the way they  are and include them in the work , task  and projects you  work  on, without trying to  push  them to change.

ESTABLISH CORE VALUES

Most people are not engaged, because they  don’t have anything they  can be engaged to.  People engage to  behavior and examples. When you  have established core values in your company  or team you need to become role model  for them. When others see that values are alive in your actions they  become more committed to your vision and way  of working.

FOLLOW THE VALUES YOU HAVE ESTABLISHED

As a leader you  need to  be an example for the values. To  stress on what is appreciated, acceptable and not acceptable and to  deal  with  a strong hand when you  see that people around you  don’t act by the values they  speak to. There is nothing worse than a person talking one and doing completely  different thing. Some leaders call  this “flexibility”,  but there is nothing like this. Values are like internal  laws you  need to  be example of and others to follow by  example. If you make them “flexible” you  then weaken them and position them as not needed.

MAKE YOUR DECISIONS BASED ON VALUES

Values are your logic to do  the things your right way. Engaged people are those who  know what they  do and why  they do it exactly  that way and now. If you  have chosen people who support your company  values you  will be able to engage them in your work  challenges and decisions. But if you  failed to  recruit these who  believe in your values be brave to  admit it and work  to change it.

COMMUNICATE AND WORK ON  MISTAKES WITHOUT FEAR

Most leaders, when climbing on the ladder forget that  are people and make mistakes. Something else, disturbing to  all  employees is that those same leaders establish  internal  double standards for implementing values driven behavior in the work. The most obvious mistake is when people see that values count for them, but are some kind of recommended, but not obligatory  for their managers or leaders on the top. That  can lead to  lowering engagement to values and work priorities,  and weaken values power.  Thaht is why,  as a leader, when you have made a mistake, admit it openly an show readiness to  work  on changing the situation. Even if that means to  “harm” some other leaders self-esteem. That  may  lower your operational  results at the moment, but will win you  results in future and together with  that will make the people in your team more engaged and committed to  win higher results in the future.

IN CONCLUSION:

Employee engagement is crucial  for business success. Nowadays people work  for companies who  share their values and live the values thay  share. The authentic leader, leading change and achieving results is the one who  can show other that he or she is human. People want leaders to  make mistakes, but also  want to  see them committed to  do  what they  say. Being example for the values company  has admitted can bring in leaders team engaged and fully  committed people ready  to  go every  ay the leader takes on and achieve every  result that has to  be achieved.

Now leaders need to  reassess their behavior and look where they  stay – posing with the empty values box, or showing a path  full of values driven behavior as as a standard for work  and results achievement.

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