In our fourth blog in the series-connected to EPIC Engagement, we are taking a look into how we can truly keep our employees progressing, learning and growing. Doesn’t it seem intuitively logical that happy and satisfied employees would be productive workers? Most of us think so. But intuition, when it comes to performance, will undoubtedly let us down at some point and lead us to make ill-formed decisions as managers. Satisfied workers aren’t necessarily productive workers!
A lot of organisations spend significant amounts of their budget on efforts to increase employee satisfaction. They introduce flexible working schemes, provide onsite leisure facilities, support generous retirement plans and create fantastic working spaces and the like in the hope of increasing employee satisfaction. In your experience, do these initiatives make the kind of difference that justifies the investment? Said differently, does this directly impact the day-to-day performance and productivity of your people?
Undoubtedly the family-friendly policies and wellbeing strategies that support employees with balancing home and work life and committing to creating better ‘psychological safety’ are an awesome way to support employees and will yield great benefits for all involved. This is not in denial and I’m a huge ambassador of such innovation. What I’m proposing is that we must shine a light on the influence that a truly engaging manager can have on performance too. Otherwise the initiatives just become a fad that delivers a cynical workforce who don’t benefit! They merely mask the day-to-day issues that are most probably hindering their performance. The result is that Senior Leaders continue to, engagement fails to increase and productivity fails to improve.
The truth is that while there may be a positive correlation between satisfaction and productivity, it tends to be moderate at best; in fact, it’s more likely that productivity causes satisfaction, rather than the other way around!
According to Stephen P. Robbins in his book ‘The Truth About Managing People’ – careful review of the evidence finds the correlation between satisfaction and productivity in the range of +0.14 and +0.30. What this means is that no more than 9%, and maybe as low as 2%, of the variance in output of a sample group of employees can be accounted for in favour of satisfaction. The evidence also suggests that productive employees are more likely to be happy workers, rather than the reverse. That is, there is a more positive correlation that productivity leads to satisfaction. If you do a good job, you intrinsically feel good about it. In addition, if you assume that the organisation rewards productivity, then your higher productivity should increase verbal recognition, your pay level, and possibilities for other rewards and recognition… shouldn’t it? This would lead to higher levels of satisfaction… surely? Oh if only…!
It’s time to stop focusing singularly on how you can increase satisfaction. Put your efforts into connecting with each individual employee and supporting them with becoming more productive, impactful and successful. For instance, consider increasing training expenditures to develop your people, improve the quality of their job design, and provide better tools and explore with them how you can remove any barriers to performance. Whatever you decide to do, as a manager, the all-important part is about understanding your people better – where they are, what their strengths are, what they could do differently or even better and to support them through the highs and lows of their performance (and let’s be clear – there will be plenty of highs and lows… they’re only human).
Employees are crying out for managers to help them to grow and perform in their current role, while also considering their next step in their progress. Yes, progress… that doesn’t necessarily mean moving up the career ladder. That could also mean making suitable progression with a project, task accomplishment, performance or perhaps their profile within the organisation. It all depends on their goals and expectations – what they really want from their work and what we need from them as managers. The manager can then play a massive part in contributing to that potential performance through good quality observations, coaching, feedback and development. Here’s a few suggestions on how to maximise your employee’s progress at pace…
- Manage with agility
We are benefitted by multi-generational workforce and each bring a unique and diverse way of thinking and working. This relatively new dynamic certainly makes the workplace more interesting and varied! This places an important requirement on managers to be prepared to flex their style, to adapt where appropriate and to recognise that a ‘one way’ approach will not work for all scenarios. It would be like taking a sledge hammer to every DIY job required at home, when sometimes a tool with just a little more precision is required! Begin by considering how you can open up a discussion and how you can understand more about their thoughts and feelings for their work.
- Establish feedback as learning
When practiced and executed regularly, feedback is one of the most powerful tools within our toolkit as managers. The challenge we now face, is that over the years feedback has been so poorly executed, that employees have become so well versed in what is about to come, that they rarely appreciate or act upon the feedback. The defence barriers are up and never has it been truer, that you get out of it what you put in. We must be very transparent with our intent in providing feedback – using the opportunity to increase self-awareness and also to praise and recognise the good in what our employees do. It has also become a very real issue for organisations that managers will avoid delivering feedback through fear. A fear of having a lack of skill to execute it, fear of conflict of other emotional outbursts or even fear of offending the receiver! We must start somewhere and consistent and regular feedback, even if poorly executed, is better than no feedback at all!
- Use coaching dialogue to enable and empower
Now let’s accelerate our feedback with good quality coaching dialogue. This is where through our heightened levels of listening and our precision questioning techniques, the manager can help the employee with exploring their current performance versus the expected standards. Such discussions really are about a collaborative dialogue that is engaging and certainly not about telling the employee what they should or shouldn’t be doing. It should feel energising and helpful – at times, almost liberating! This style of conversation does wonders for building trust with our people and helps them with adopting a mindset of continuous improvement and growth.
- Create energy for growth
Our employees require investment in their developing their mindset, skills and behaviours. Even the very best employees will benefit from refreshers in those entities every now and again. Rarely is anything absolutely perfect, so there’s always opportunities for everyone to be even better. Through your discussions understand and encourage your employees to seek out what development they need and truly empower them to seek out what they could do differently or even better. Show them where the development is available from, support them with accessing this or, better still, show them how to do what they believe is a development area. Whatever the development initiative is, work together to find the most appropriate solution, be encouraging and be sure to follow up and talk about any learning that they achieve and explore how they are then going to apply that learning.
Even though an individual may be willing and able, there will always be obstacles that constrain progress. Helping employees to feel better about how they view their work through progress and achievement is facilitated by the existence of a nurturing manager. No matter how motivated an employee is, their performance is going to suffer if there isn’t a supportive work environment created by their manager. How are you making this happen consistently?
EPIC Engagement is a solution for driving employee engagement through better equipped management practices. Our innovative solution should be considered as a comprehensive development programme, diagnostic and measurement aid for one of the most important business metrics to your organisation’s performance and productivity. The EPIC Engagement approach focuses on the two biggest catalysts to employee engagement – how employees feel about their work and the capability and influence of their manager. Through this programme, we will measure your manager’s current capabilities for delivering the kind of experience that will inspire their people to perform. Once they have mastered certain core aspects of management and leadership, we can continue to measure their ability to inspire, motivate and engage their people in the core elements of Expectations, Progress, Inspiration and Collaboration. Speak with Emerge today at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free and non-obligatory discussion around the EPIC Engagement programme.