Former GE CEO, Jack Welch, once said there are only three measurements that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organisation’s overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow.
Employee engagement is of particular interest to me based on the massive impact it has. (Towers Watson found that organisations with high levels of employee engagement have almost three times the profit margins of companies with low levels). Many things influence engagement. You have to recruit the right employees to begin with or they won’t be engaged and there’s little point trying. (People in the wrong jobs will almost always falter). It is also important to on-board them, train, compensate and measure their performance correctly. However, all that said, the primary driver of employee engagement boils down to manager behavior.
Increasing employee engagement really means improving management fundamentals. One of the tools I use to help managers remember these fundamental is something called the ROAD acronym. ROAD stands for respect, objectives, awareness, dialogue.
Show Respect – Somewhat counter-intuitively, showing respect for employees does not necessarily mean taking action in response to suggestions. Good old-fashioned listening remains perhaps the most effective means of improving and sustaining employee engagement. Simply listening and acknowledging concerns is often enough to give employees a sense of being respected. Most people understand there are limits to what a company can do to make their lives better, so what matters is that employees feel your organisation cares and is willing to help out to some degree or another.
Set Clear Objectives – Setting clear objectives may sound blindingly obvious, but you’d be surprised how many employees report that they don’t understand what they’re supposed to be doing in their jobs. It’s worth remembering that there’s a right way and a wrong way to set goals. Most people want to be involved in determining the goals that make the most sense for them. One of the most powerful means of establishing and communicating goals is to use “cascading goals” software that enables senior management to set strategic objectives and then communicate them to everyone across the organisation. Employees set their initial goals based on reviewing their managers’ goals which are then sent to management for review and approval.
Increase Awareness – Performance feedback helps raise awareness of how our behavior impacts our performance, but it’s still one of the most difficult aspects of talent management. Feedback can actually lower performance levels if it’s delivered improperly. Rather than telling people what they’re doing wrong, managers should provide information that increases awareness of what needs to be changed while also increasing confidence in an employee’s ability to change. Most leading companies use performance and goal management technology to support this. Talent management applications can also provide development tips to help people take action on the specific feedback.
Create a Dialogue – Many organisations struggle to maintain effective communication between managers and employees. Whilst technologies and tools can help meet this challenge and support a climate of employee engagement, technology should not be used as a substitute for face-to-face meetings. Don’t hide behind the speed and convenience of technology, but rather use the tools it can deliver – e.g. dashboards, scorecards, alerts and access to performance data – to have more meaningful face-to-face discussions with employees.