SuperCharged2In previous blogs we talked about discretionary effort and the connection to employee engagement. We viewed discretionary effort as the difference between what is minimally needed to function in the job and the maximum effort an individual can potentially expend to accomplish a task.

There are endless opportunities that take place daily, we call them touch points, where employees have the chance to make decisions that enhance – or damage - the company brand in the eyes of the customers.

According to Gallup: State of American Workplace 2013, nearly 70% of employees are not fully engaged in their job or employer. Further, companies that have more engaged employees than disengaged employees, increased their annual Earnings Per Share (EPS) over their competition by as much as 147% from 2011-2012. Finally, only 41% of employees understood what their company stood for and what makes their company's brand different from their competition. In other words, nearly 60% of your employees are not quite sure how or if they can engage with the customer because they don't get the bigger picture (vision, mission, brand, etc.). How can this be?

I Know It When I See It

In 1964, Nico Jacobellis, was convicted by a judge for exhibiting a certain adult film in an artsy neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio. His conviction was eventually upheld by the Supreme Court of Ohio where Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart in his decision wrote in part "...I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that." He was speaking to the movie not being a work of art but rather something far different.

Similarly, we may not really be able to wrap our heads around and define in a scholarly way, employee engagement and the connection to discretionary effort, but just like Justice Potter Stewart, we too know it when we see it. If we "know it when we see it," what can we do so we can see more of it? For the purpose of this discussion we will focus on three interrelated general areas; Performance, Retention and Creativity and what you can do to tap into that special untapped reservoir of human potential.

Performance begins before day one

Acceptable and sustained performance begins with hiring the right person with the right skill set. I was once told by one of my bosses, "hiring the right person for the job is the most important thing you will do as a manager". She was right.

  1. Look hard at your hiring practices to determine if you are really attracting people with the right skill set. A behavioral interview processes along with the correct set of competencies can be used to find the best fit for your organization.
  2. Review your onboarding process. Now that the interview is over we are all set to go. Right? Nope. The real work is about to start. If onboarding proves ineffective, you've just wasted a lot of time in the selection process.
  3. Ensure your training is content valid, complete and supported by the front line management.
  4. Have measurable performance standards, accountability and feedback mechanisms in place that are controllable by the employee (realistic outcomes).

Retention via front line supervision

Turnover is an expensive proposition for any company when you consider the cost of overtime or additional hours, interviewer's and candidate's time, advertising, training and lost productivity, just to name a few. No surprise, turnover is higher among non-engaged employees than it is with engaged employees. A key contributing factor to turnover is the front line supervisor or manager. The importance of the selection, onboarding and development of front line managers cannot be over stated. This single group of employees represents you (and the company!) to front line employees and is key to any engagement strategy. You can have a very slick hiring and onboarding process, but all your efforts can come to an abrupt halt when a manager fails to communicate your vision, mission, purpose of work and goals to all levels of associates under their purview.

While compensation, benefits, work rules, hours worked, etc. are always important pieces to the retention puzzle, it has been my experience, and various studies have proven true, that one of the chief reasons individuals leave their job is because of the manner in which they have been treated by their boss. We will discuss this further in a future blog!

Creativity through employee involvement

How many companies still have a suggestion box program? Usually located in the break room or some other neutral area hidden away from the manager's office so as to not disclose the true identity of the author of the idea and to safe guard anonymity? The box is opened at regular intervals and the contents evaluated by some "authority." If suggestion contributor is lucky, they receive a response that thanks them for their time and it may read in part, "it's been done before" or "it's too expensive." Good idea with good intentions shot right in the foot!

Creativity spawns engagement and a higher connection to the company. It creates buy in from employees and clarifies the purpose of the work people are performing. There are two things to consider with regards to creativity.

  1. People who perform the work can provide meaningful feedback to changes being planned to their job.
  2. Employee input and support on the front end; makes the implementation go a lot smoother and increases the likelihood of success.

Therefore, when practical, get those who are affected by the change involved in the thought process on the front end. Practice inclusion and not exclusion. This helps create an environment that sends the message "we are all in this together so let's find a solution" rather than "do this because I said so."

In summary, you can supercharge your company's engagement strategies by first starting with the right person with the proper orientation and training for the job they will perform. Make sure that your managers are on board so they do not undue what the training aims to accomplish. Finally, ask people for their opinions, ideas and involvement in matters that involve their work as you recognize their contributions along the way. Another way to foster creativity in a work group is through the art of delegation. We will talk more about this in the next blog; the steps of delegation and the connection it has to engaging employees!

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