A general look around the office or factory and break-room discussions today would make it obvious to all who wanted to see it that employees are not so much engaged as they are worried about their jobs. This leads to two major issues for companies to consider during tough times. The first is how to inspire confidence and innovation in an organization that appears to be in freeze mode. The second is what the company should measure as an indicator of employee engagement.
Marcia Xenitelis, change-management specialist (http://www.changemanagementtips.com), says that inspiring confidence and innovation in an organization boils down to a change management strategy that focuses on getting employees actively involved at all levels in understanding the business and how their ideas can have a positive impact. She offers this example of what a company could do.
* Take real business data and share it with groups of employees at all levels that deal with customers in specific sectors.
* Ask employees for ideas on improving or innovating just one aspect of a service offering or product line and test in a specific market segment on a small scale, say a sales territory or state.
* Then after testing those ideas for a six-week period ask employees to examine the business results.
* Take those ideas that have shown a substantial improvement in sales and implement either statewide or nationally, depending on the organization.
* Design a reward and recognition program around the impact of these ideas on the business outcomes and start to energise your work force.
It really is that simple: Treat employees with respect; stop telling them what to do and instead listen to what they have to say; put some rigor around the framework for ideas and reward outstanding results. This is how innovation happens and how managers can energize an organization to respond quickly to changing market conditions.
Another key is to ensure that whatever change-management strategy the company designs has specific activities and responsibilities for management. Often we forget that managers are just as concerned during tough times about their job security, but their team members are looking at them for direction and support. So when leaders design change strategies ensure that there are key responsibilities and clearly defined activities for all levels of the organization. Practically, what does this mean with the example above? The company would design specific activities such as:
* Managers would identify the real business data and share it with their teams.
* Managers would be responsible for selecting which ideas would be selected for testing in a specific market, and they would decide which test market.
* Managers would obtain the business results at the end of the six-week test period and organize briefings with their teams.
* The hierarchy of managers would then decide which tests produced the best result, decide which to implement and project-plan that implementation.
* Together with human resources, the management team would decide on a reward and recognition program and share it with their teams.
So what about employee-engagement surveys? Xenitelis says, "Save your organization the tens of thousands of dollars they cost and invest your time in a well-thought-out change-management strategy such as that outlined above. This will ensure a climate where communication is open, ideas are valued, and actions are implemented."
All these steps are indicative of a work force that is focused, has purpose and feels a greater level of confidence about the future of their organization and therefore their role, because they are actively involved in designing the future, not being told what do and when to do it. If companies just change the paradigm from budget cuts, budget cuts and budget cuts to opportunities, growth and involvement, the organization's business results will be a barometer of employee engagement—no survey required.
For access to case studies and more information on the types of strategies companies can implement to engage employees, visit http://www.changemanagementtips.com.