I don’t know why conversations about employee engagement often end up with HR taking the blame for the lack of it in the workplace. I must admit that HR can do a lot to champion employee engagement by initiating management sanctioned programs to increase employee satisfaction and yes, maybe employee engagement. However, I’m of the opinion that the potentially more powerful champion of employee engagement are the line/business managers and supervisors. Why? Because they have the best opportunity to keep employees engaged every day!
The problem I believe is this. Many of both HR practitioners and managers are stuck to the old command and control approach to management that barely work anymore and are having difficulty transitioning to one that is more needed in this changed world of work. Yes, the world has significantly changed because, people now have more access to information and are perhaps as knowledgeable if not more so than their managers. When these new capabilities are not accessed or if employees’ higher perception of their capability to contribute or simply make decisions within their areas of responsibility is not used, they feel dis-empowered and bring their disappointment and frustration to the workplace in the form of disengagement.
The leaders of today need to adapt to this new world of work by being more engaging and empowering. They need to turn communication as they know it upside down by inquiring and listening more than telling and instructing. If a manager can build a sense of community of empowered people who make decisions every day to contribute to common goal rather than supervise people into compliance, he/she will be harnessing people’s talent to the fullest. If a manager can recognize strengths, reward and encourage employees to use them, people will be having more sense of fulfillment and achievement. If managers can keep working relationship healthy by being mindful of keeping trust high, they’ll get more engagement from people.
This requires a change of mindset and a lot of getting used to, especially if both managers and employees have been working together in a highly hierarchical reporting model. There is a need to unlearn things and introduce new ways of doing. For one, leaders need to learn to move away from the old patterns of conversation to ones where there is more reflective and generative dialogues. Creating an environment that makes trusting, open and honest conversations between leaders and their team members is one big challenge that leaders must learn how to achieve. They need to learn how to let go of the coercive influence brought by their formal authority on the table by setting that authority aside and recognizing their own blind spots. By asking humble questions, they empower their employees to think and participate in the problem solving and decision making process. By allowing employees to take ownership of the solution, leaders make them feel empowered, hence their level of engagement can increase.
I love to see leaders who are so confident in their own power that they are willing to share it. I designed a program that will help them not just realize the great things they can do with their employees by creating an environment of shared leadership that leads to more engagement. Check out my program below and let me know if you wish to know more.