In the last few months we have seen lightbulbs and bells going off all over the place. We now have some statistics to prove what we have all known for a long time – not everyone is happy at work!
WHAT A WASTE!
But it is the statistics themselves that are so shocking. The various numbers indicate that only around a third of the workforce is fully engaged at work (CIPD), a third of all employees have low or no trust in their managers (new ILM Index of Leadership Trust). Government has recently accepted the recommendations of The McLeod Review of Employee Engagement which concluded that a nationwide campaign is required to raise awareness of the benefits of employee engagement and, further, that techniques and practical support need to be available to improve the situation. Research by the Corporate Leadership Council shows that the number of highly disengaged employees has effectively doubled in the last couple of years.
This is a sad waste of enthusiasm, expertise, and talent at all levels of organisations and businesses but the most worrying aspect is that many, many organisations still don’t get it. Employee engagement = increased productivity, as well as the obvious benefits to individual employees’ wellbeing.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
What is so very worrying from a professionalism and competence perspective is how we got into this position. Why should any of this be difficult for anyone who describes themselves as a manager to understand? Interpersonal skills are supposedly a key part of the skills specification for this job description. How do we arrive at the point where a line manager, department head or CEO does not know that acknowledging the contribution of others, offering opportunities, communicating well and saying please and thank you is a good idea and one which will reward the individual and organisation richly? Good grief!
A joint ACAS / CIPD document unsurprisingly highlights the fact that far too few employers invest in people management training for their management teams and line managers. I would go a little further and ask how individuals without these skills are being hired and how any CEO could possibly achieve that level of influence without anyone noticing such significant shortcomings.
TIME TO FIX IT
It would be far too easy to say that in this climate the training budget goes out the window so organisations will find it difficult to rectify this sorry state of affairs. The sort of organisational changes which could have huge impact need not be expensive or disruptive to implement. Quite the reverse. They are about attitude and an organisation’s professionalism and ethos. Neither are they rocket science. As a very short starter list, consider the impact which the following might make in a short space of time:
- Respect your staff, their competence and abilities
- Be clear and reasonable about expectations at every level of the organisation and back this up with supportive, detailed recruitment and appraisal policies
- Value and encourage their contribution and efforts
- Communicate with them about the organisation, its progress or difficulties
- Listen to their suggestions for innovation and improvement
- Commit to their professional development as a valued part of the team and the bigger organisation
- Cherish, support and develop in-house talent - ‘grow your own’ is not an unfamiliar concept these days
- Reward their efforts and make that reward meaningful to them as individuals not as an amorphous mass called ‘the staff’
As a result, enhancing engagement levels will mean that the contribution each makes will be of benefit to the organisation. Ensure that you capture that contribution through functional processes and procedures. Basic knowledge management techniques will ensure that, if they do leave, their expertise does not walk out the door with them. Make sure that talking to them is an ongoing process not a one-off novelty – they know and understand your business, customers or members intimately.
How to begin if these ideas don’t come easily? Start with please and thank you, after that the rest should follow by degrees.