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Getting Your Employees Engaged — Part II

In my blog entry, “Getting Your Employees Engaged,” I cited six low-scoring survey items that were indications of low employee engagement and discussed the first two: (1) My company takes appropriate action with poor performance and (2) I have opportunities for promotion.

Now it’s time to tackle the middle two:

• Leadership understands the concerns of employees
• Quality of work is not compromised by volume of work

The role of leadership: Great leaders have the innate ability and intuition to relate to their employees. They have emotional intelligence. They’re able to communicate. And, most importantly, they listen, listen, listen! As Jim Collins writes in Good to Great, they’re willing to face the brutal facts. This ability to relate and care reflects in their concern for employees. For some, it’s genuine. For others, it’s more like smart business. The fact is that the CEO sets the tone and his or her concern permeates the organization. A leadership uncaring and unmindful of employees will inevitably communicate this attitude with serious impact on morale, performance and productivity,

I’m currently helping a multi-billion dollar, privately-owned company go through a major transformation. The owners epitomize the concept of caring. They know many of the employees in the various subsidiaries. They’re personally involved in all key decisions. And they demonstrate their appreciation for loyalty. Their work ethic and behaviors have motivated and inspired executives and their teams to go way beyond the call of duty — working prodigious hours and showing total commitment to the changes. This is what employee engagement is all about!

So, show you care: engage with your employees, listen and address their concerns, and communicate transparently.

Quality vs. volume of work: The recession has led companies to pare their workforces to the bone in an effort to keep their P&Ls looking good and conserve cash. While the result has been significant productivity gains, it has also created high levels of structural unemployment. Make no mistake – quality has suffered.

While new technology, improved systems and processes, more training, or, simply, better management and allocation of resources can help, many employees today feel that they’re hanging on by their finger nails and barely able to sustain the required levels of service or production quality at the lean staffing levels. And heavy workloads lead to stress, burnout and disengagement.

When your employee engagement survey sends a clear message about the volume of work, read the comments and do the diagnostics. Meet with team members and look into the problems. Set up task forces to handle issues that simply require communication and problem-solving between departments. Hire specialists for more complex matters. And above all, continue to communicate and be transparent at all levels in the organization.

I’ll address the final two low-scoring items, openness/trust and morale, in my next blog.

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