I was having breakfast at the Red Rooster in Crapaud this week with my cousin Charlie Sherren, and we were discussing how people conducted business in our fathers’ time. His father, my Uncle Ned, was a man of solid values who would give more than take, and truly cared about his customers and workers.
Charles was adamant to continue this tradition and even today; the services he provides to others is done the way he would want it done unto him. This may seem like common sense, but he (and many others) feel the concept of personal accountability has been lost and workers just don’t care.
He might be right.
There is now significant research that employee engagement is at an all time low. In fact, a recent Gallup survey found that employee engagement levels in America fell to an average of 31.7 per cent in March, down from 32.9 per cent in February.
Though the average for the first quarter of 2015 is higher than it was last year at this time (32.1 versus 31.7 per cent), it’s still declining overall. So what is that doing to overall morale, and productivity in our organizations?
One interesting part of the survey said that women are more engaged than men in the workplace (34.7 versus 29.2 per cent). Typically, women are more engaged than men by a factor of five to six percentage points.
In fact, an article in the New York Daily News reports that nearly 70 per cent of U.S. employees are miserable at work and over 30 per cent are actively disengaged. Gallup’s research also suggests there is a strong correlation between employee engagement, and customer satisfaction, increased productivity, and overall profitability.
How did we get here and what can we do about it?
I believe a big part is that many people who rose quickly to management, or became business owners, did not learn the skill of truly delegating and involving.
Yes, they assigned tasks, but they did not truly empower staff and teach them to accept responsibility. This denied workers development and the skill building needed to take on accountability without fear. I have heard it over and over from managers who say: “It’s just quicker to do it myself”, or “Employees today will just mess things up”.
This is the consequence of a “sink-or–swim” or “baptism-by-fire”culture. Under those circumstances employees will certainly lay low and play CYA (cover your arse!) when they see responsibilities coming down the pipe.
The good news is it’s not too late. Here are just a few ideas you can implement that will ensure people will step up, be engaged and even enthusiastic about their work:
- Develop a culture where managers share responsibilities. Empower your employees to make decisions, take on accountability and do their work the way they think is best. If the end result works, even if it’s not your way – let it go!
- Involve employees in management responsibilities. I remember as a corporate manager I had employees that were ready for promotion, but there were no openings. Of course they became discontent. So I would say, “How would you like to be even better prepared for an opening when it does happen.” Then, one at a time, I would delegate them something I was responsible for and let them run with it.
- Be transparent. Be open about how the company makes money and what activities are most profitable. Review any long-term strategies you may have and how they fit in the big picture.
- Set up on-going coaching sessions. Forget the annual performance review ritual. Make course corrections and provide feedback on any accomplishments on a monthly or at least quarterly basis.
My question for managers this week: “Are you mentoring your employees to take on greater responsibilities in a confident, constructive manner?