Let’s take off the table the false notion that losses in business productivity and employee engagement are solely tied to sagging consumer confidence and a drop off in consumption.
In reality, business productivity and engagement are internal business issues and based on an intricate balance among business systems, strategies and effective group norms that support cooperation and workforce development initiatives. My support for this statement comes from the current list of the 50 fastest growing companies in the United States whose growth is attritubed to demanding good workforce relationships – both internally and externally.
When these pillars of business productivity (systems, strategies and workforce readiness) are properly balanced and supported by a company’s leaders, improved performance and employee engagement are the outcomes.
An engaged workforce operates from a cooperative ethic. This stands in contrast to an internally competitive operation where one employee’s gain is offset by another employee’s loss. That loss could show itself in an employee’s lack of access to learning opportunities, advancement and incentives — or the opportunity to openly express daily work concerns and suggest ways to address them.
As the economy continues to rebound slowly, leaders that facilitate workforce cooperation now by engaging employees in open and honest discussions over what is working and what could be improved in the workplace are better positioned to benefit from the inevitable economic recovery than companies that are not paying attention to such things.
One tool, recently released by TIGERS Success Series to help facilitate this process is the TIGERS Team Wheel™ game. This team development tool kit helps employees and their leaders identify behaviors that build strong, cooperative teams. It also helps teams identify and talk about — in a non-threatening way — behaviors that cause problems. As a result, this tool also unlocks an employee’s desire to contribute to ideas that make work more productive and happier. TIGERS will be training trainers to use this tool starting on March 8.
What can leaders do now to spark engagement? Here are three ideas:
Talk About It
Employee cooperation is based on the notion that employees are helping one another to be successful. However, when management fails to acknowledge the hardships employees face, a hopeless feeling is released into the workplace that is toxic to morale and productivity.
Employees who must put on a happy face and disown their feelings about work, squelch ideas on how their work could be improved and deny economic circumstances become disengaged in order to cope with discouragement and difficult work conditions.
A powerful solution to this downward spiral is for company owners to encourage employees by talking to them about how things are going. Employers who give employees the opportunity to vent about their frustrations often discover that employees begin to feel better. However, employees will soon begin to feel manipulated if afterwards workable solutions are not addressed.
When productivity and morale suffers, business owners and company leaders make matters worse by not addressing issues head on and taking action on well considered employee recommendations.
Leaders who believe that there is no need to take action because it would only be a response to short-term volatility and, therefore, not important will discover that failure to makes changes now will result in unprecedented employee turnover once the economy corrects itself. Leaving a company to work for another is the employee’s response to low engagement. For the employer, loss in productivity is magnified due to the loss of a trained workforce.
Harnessing Employee Ideas
Leaders who champion the notion that all employees are responsible for new ideas, cost savings and developing revenue from sources where it didn’t exist before are bringing their workforce into balance with systems, strategies and the norms that support cooperation.
For example, when Google interviewed their employees in 2011 about what they valued most from work, extravagant benefits and salaries did not make the top ten list. Instead, employees named the one-on-one meetings with even-keeled bosses who coached them through solving problems and who took an interest in their lives and careers.
Tangibles like salary and benefits aren’t enough to guarantee morale and productivity. Good communication with leaders who listen and work to remove success barriers, and engage employees in solving problems, cooperatively boost engagement and improve productivity.
So how can a company keep good employees engaged and productive? It comes down to building higher levels of cooperation in your organization. It also involves bringing workforce strategies and systems into balance with workforce development planning by listening to employees and resolving problems now. Leaders who foster a culture of cooperation throughout their workforce will launch out of the recession in much better shape than those who do not. And, you don’t have to be a company with large numbers of employees to deploy these strategies. Many of our small business members enjoy ongoing training for their employees – a real benefit considering employees don’t have to leave your business to enter our on-line classrooms.
Check out the new Team Building Tool Box for improving team dynamics, employee engagement and team conflict management. www.corevalues.com/tigers-team-wheel-game.
Dianne Crampton helps committed leaders build teams of employees who are as committed to the success of the company as they are. Team Consulting and Organizational Development Services