Volume 1 / Issue 1 / March 28, 2016
Getting Serious about Employee Engagement
There is no sustainable engagement of any kind without trust, says Peter Drucker – In his words, "organizations can no longer be built on force, they must be built on trust." He believes that trust-based management paradigms must replace the old command-and-control styles if the knowledge economy is to sustain high employee engagement and productivity.
He expresses his correlation of trust with productivity this way: Employee trust generates Engagement, and engagement inspires Discretionary Effort which leads to Innovation – which in turn generates Productivity. Hence the engagement we seek from our people is a critical part of any Lean culture. At the same time, it can be said that engagement is the result of a well led and well-managed Lean initiative. ATJ agrees, and points to the development of the consortium movement over the past 20 years as evidence of what trust can do.
ATJ is indebted to Dan McDonnell for sharing his experience and thinking regarding Employee Engagement. Many will know Dan for his many years as a very visible Leader at AME International Conferences and more. He is a top leader at Ingersoll-Rand, one of the premier manufacturers in North America where he employs Employee Engagement daily. He knows well the competitive power such engagement can bring because of his prior senior leadership roles at Multilin in Canada, the General Electric Locomotive facility in Erie PA, and now at Ingersoll-Rand as their Vice President of Integrated Supply Chain in Davidson NC.
Dan on ENGAGEMENT!
Ten letters formed together to spell a word.
Not just any word mind you, but perhaps one of the most important words in the business community.
I have heard many a great leader voice the reality that competitors can copy products, they can copy processes, they can copy equipment and tools, but they cannot easily copy culture, or more importantly within culture, the power of an engaged, energized and empowered workforce. Creating such an engaged workforce can be a differentiated competitive weapon that any type of organization can utilize to move to top performance against their competition on share growth, margin expansion, and utilization of working capital and overall asset investments. In other words, … a legitimate pathway to true excellence, to sustained greatness.So how about as we enter a new year, we think about 10 drivers of employee engagement for the 10 letters that make up the word. The adoption and maturation of which could very well lead to a positive upward trend for the manufacturing economy in North America:
1. Trust …
Eiji Toyoda once uttered the words “Trust is Key”, when asked what he felt was the most important aspect of leadership. Creating a true engaged workforce really requires a focus on building positive and enduring relationships between peers, and between leaders and their reports. If each of us were honest with ourselves, and thought about any relationship we have or have had in our life; be it with a spouse or significant other, a family member, a friend, or a colleague, it is almost impossible to expect to build and maintain a strong relationship that is not based on a foundation of trust. Whether trust currently exists or does not, it really is a key leadership requirement to focus on either strengthening or rebuilding that trust.
2. Authenticity …
It is very important to always focus on being yourself, being real and true to your nature. Think about yourself and your interaction with others. When you are dealing with someone who is putting on airs, trying to be someone they are not, shaping their behaviors to cause something to happen, you can see through it in a heartbeat. Think about how that affects you versus the feeling you get interacting with someone who is always genuine. I think most of you would answer that it would be hard to fully trust, believe in, and align fully with someone who is not authentic. If this resonates with you, why would you think it would be any different for anyone who was interacting with you? Being authentic builds relationships and engagement.
3. Respect/Effective Communication …
One of the most important principles of the vaunted Toyota Production System is an expectation for leaders to always show “Respect for People” in all of their interactions. Your grandmother may have gotten this right before even Toyota did, when she counselled you to “treat others the way you would want to be treated yourself”. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand the credibility behind this. Of course we would like others to treat us with respect, to treat us the way we would like to be treated, and when they do, we respond very positively towards them – and sometimes quite differently when they do not. Why would one think it would be different for any employee in your own organization? Learning how to talk to people in a straight and respectful manner, to listen generously and often to their views and opinions and needs, are communication styles that show respect.
4. Integrity/Ethics/Values …
Employees find it difficult to be engaged in their organization when they perceive that the organization or some/many of its leaders operate in an unethical manner, do not endorse, expect and require integrity in all decisions and interactions, and ultimately that do not have a set of positive values that are firmly embedded in the culture. Without any of these, employees tend not to feel particularly engaged in the mission and endeavors of their organization.
5. Caring …
Employees are most engaged when they genuinely feel they work for an organization, for an immediate supervisor/manager, for senior leaders that care for them. We all want to feel cared about, you do, I do, what would make us think all of our employees wouldn’t feel, desire, and need the same. You also can’t fake out care, you either care about your people and their needs more than you do about process, equipment and numbers, or you don’t. If you want engaged employees, choose to make your people the most important part of your organization, choose to truly care about them, and then show it through your actions, your body language, and your communications. Servant Leadership is a powerful movement, and consists of two words; it does not mean that one is no longer a leader, in fact they are even more so, but that the prime responsibility of a leader is to “serve” their people, not the other way around. There is perhaps no better way to show you care.
6. Presence …
If one wants to create an engaged employee, team, department or organization, it is hard to do it, if employees never see their leaders often, and do not really know them. It is important for people to see you often, to get to interact with you, to get to know you. This is hard to do if you spend most of your days working in your office, cubicles and conference rooms, places where most of the employees that you want to engage tend not to be working. We call the Gemba the place where value adding work actually is happening, and leaders who spend more time in the Gemba – and leading from there – tend to create more engagement.
7. Manager as a Coach/Teacher …
Leaders in great organizations with high levels of engagement, realize intuitively that their most important responsibility is the development of their people. Employees that feel they are growing and developing, that their organization and leaders are committed to helping them with it, become far more engaged. The best way a leader can focus more on development, is to spend more time in the Gemba with their people, and while out there, to intentionally spend more time practicing coaching and teaching versus managing people and telling them what to do. Engaged organizations understand that while coaching, it is far more effective to practice the Socratic leadership model and learn how to “Ask The Right Question” versus always giving “The Right Answer”. This helps the employee get to the right answer, but believe they got there themselves, not only does this better embed the learning, it increases engagement and grows a sense of achievement.
8. Teamwork …
Unless one is playing an individual sport, few companies in the world are a one-person company - even small businesses have a cadre of employees. Where individualism permeates the culture, it is hard to create engagement across the masses. Most employees want to feel like a key part of a great team, where their teammates actually play as a team. When teamwork becomes a big part of the culture, so too does the level of engagement in an organization.
9. Involvement in Destiny/Innovation/Problem Solving …
Continuous Improvement is the hallmark of any journey to excellence. Creating a broadly engaged workforce, all active in continuous improvement, always helps to accelerate this journey. If one were to truly discover what most employees most desire and value, they would find that people want to feel that “they actually make a difference” – and that they are “allowed & trusted to make a difference”. People want to be part of making their work better, and when leaders learn how to tap in and involve more and more of their employees in continuous improvement activities, in solving problems in their own areas, and bringing their own personal innovation and creativity to bear, the level of engagement exponentially increases.
10. Winning/Courage/Delivering Results/Pride …
People like winning, we all like winning, we all want to work for a winner. Winning can be a contagious and virtuous cycle, just as in the opposite way, losing can become a vicious cycle. When a person, a team, an organization regularly do as they say, deliver results, have courage in taking risks in driving towards them, and ultimately are seen to be winning, then pride in themselves, their teammates, and their company skyrockets and engagement follows.
Engagement can be contagious, as can lack of engagement … in 2016, how about you practice 10 proven paths to engagement and make those 10 simple letters come true.
Dan is VP of Integrated Supply Chain for the Ingersoll-Rand Corporation in Davidson NC
You can reach Dan at email@example.com