Employee engagement isn’t something you can easily grab a hold of and manipulate. Its regularly referred to as “one of those touchy feelly things” that frustrates the heck out of Driver type personalities. So, often times it gets ignored completely. The truth is, at it’s core is trust and communication.
Talking to the foreman of a manufacturing facility last week, I noticed that he was particularly frustrated with a specific project he was working on. He seemed to think that the company was actually losing money by selling and working on this particular type of project. After doing some research on my own, it was clear that this was not the case – the company was profiting very well on these projects!
When I approached one of the leaders for this information, he said “those shop guys don’t need to worry about whether or not we make money on those jobs; they just need to work”. To me, that statement was shocking!
It is true, that if you think of employees as worker bees, they don’t need to know every detail. Each of them has their specific task; clean, defend, and repair the hive. Feed the larva, the queen, and the drones. Ventilate, cool and heat the hive, etc.
However, if you consider reality, worker bees must have a basic understanding of what they are doing and why they are doing it. Maybe it’s simply in their nature or maybe they were trained to be that way? Whatever the reason, they are all operating towards a central goal.
In business, every single member of the team should also be operating towards a central goal. The challenge is that not everyone’s nature is the same. That’s why a company mission exists. That’s why it’s vital that everyone knows what the mission is.
But, if one or more of those workers sees the company operating outside of that mission and believes management is ok with that…it derails the whole thing. I’ll even go out on a limb and say that it doesn’t matter whether that person is a janitor or a member of the executive team.
Truth be told, everyone cares about what they are doing and how it affects the bigger picture. Even though there may be different degrees of caring (some more selfish than others) this is basic human nature. So, if you find yourself on either side of this equation, it’s time to take inventory. If you aren’t explaining things to frustrated team members, you may want to take a step back. If you are a team member that thinks management is crazy for what they are doing, don’t assume the worst; trust them a little until you’ve had a chance to discuss it.
Either way, effective communication is a great way to build trust and increase engagement among everyone on the team. Making it easier to lead and easier to be lead. That’s not to say that there aren’t occasions when leaders are wrong. Just like there are surely times when team members are wrong. The point is that simply refusing to explain things or not having respect enough to have an open dialogue on a topic is the fastest way to dis-engagement. Which will certainly lead to a less efficient team and less profitable work environment.
Question: Have you ever been told to just “shut-up and do your job”?