“Can’t get there from here” is a New England statement that has to be said with a very thick New England accent. It’s used because, especially way up north, all roads do not connect. And wouldn’t you know it. This idea applies to business too. “Here” is a work environment where employees are disengaged, i.e. distrusting, minimal performing, low energy, etc. “There” is a work environment where employees are energized, contributing, productive. The “road” that leads to the first cannot get you to the second. It takes a different route.
When managers are not trusted to coach, to make decisions, to engage the employees and keep them engaged (to name a few) – business can’t get to the one thing they talk about wanting. According to many different polls by Gallup and others, business leaders want employees to choose and to want to better the company, to better the customer experience, and to better themselves. Without a strong coaching relationship between the front line manager and the team, guess what? “Can’t get there from here.”
Business does train and does try new ways to keep employees energized but there seems to be a gap. Doing more tasks or implementing new procedures will not keep employees engaged. Engagement is a choice, whether conscious or subconscious, because there is a reason for being engaged. This could be fulfillment, recognition, career advancement, a feeling of satisfaction, self-improvement, learning, a promotion, or a host of other reasons. The point is the employee has worth and knows it, because it is consistently communicated. And let us not forget that managing an engaged group of employees is not only easier, but more rewarding for the manager in every way.
What is the view from the front? Is the employee seeing the same things the leadership is seeing? Have the goals and the vision been defined in a way that both parties have the same definition? The perspective of an employee is different than that of management. How can it not be? It isn’t that one is more invested than the other with respect to commitment. Rather, it is more about how information is perceived. If management is asking for more to be done without fully considering the impact it will have on the employees, the employees will see it as negative. If blaming occurs because things are not getting accomplished without seeing why, employees will be resentful. If employees are being treated poorly (lots of negative reinforcement, little or no positive reinforcement) or never recognized, for example, then employees will disengage.
The process of engagement is grounded in how managers treat the employees. The relationship develops while going after the same defined goals. The frontline manager, especially, is the foundation or source from which the team works. This relationship is one of support, coaching, mentoring, accountability, pushing for greatness in each individual, listening, challenging, defending, and working towards company and individual goals.
Engagement is an indicator. How engaged one is in a relationship, whether personal or work, is much like barometric pressure. Barometric pressure helps us understand weather conditions. When the pressure changes, so do the conditions. Pressure up and we’re looking at good weather; down, and it’s a storm. Employee engagement, or lack thereof is an excellent way to understand the work environment. It lets us know what’s going on and even how it will be going forward. So, less engagement and the work environment is sluggish. Productivity, efficiency, customer service and profit suffer. More engagement and the work environment is good. Work is getting done efficiently and productively, employees are committed and part of the team, and their contribution to the overall health of the organization is valued and recognized. This looks like the road worth taking.