Monday, March 29, 2010

How to improve engagement and disengagement: Why feedback is the first step

The link to leadership.
Talk to anyone about being disengaged in the workplace and they will probably say something about “trust” and something about “management.” Surveys show the same results, supervisor’s leadership style has so much to do with employee engagement and the differences between work groups can be astounding. 

But what to do about it?
Feedback is the link to developing leadership for employee engagement. Most of us do not know, in a nuanced way, how we affect others. Leaders are no different. Feedback can help. The best feedback is measurement as well as understanding and learning from the results of the measurement.

Measuring employee engagement, for example with surveys or focus groups, is a great foundation for improving engagement. It can motivate and direct change.

It is important to make sure that organizational leadership understands engagement, the factors affecting engagement and the engagement of the functions they manage. When you measure engagement the results will tell you something about “trust” and the quality of “management."  If leaders understand the engagement picture they are likely to try to change it for their own good!

Simply giving supervisors a report on engagement in their area is not enough. Feedback can be hard to take and even harder to act upon. Organizations that really want to improve engagement will ensure that managers have support, in workshops or with coaches, to understand and plan how they will act upon the feedback.

Many organizations (namely Dell and Ford) tie manager compensation to survey results. This puts a lot of focus on engagement, but it is not necessary for leadership development. My experience is that most managers want to be better leaders.

Organizations that complete engagement surveys must answer the questions “what groups will be reported upon” and “how many reports do we develop?” A lot of resources (time and money) are required to process feedback. If you have 300 department managers, does each get a report? Further, will all 300 managers get, understand and act upon the feedback? These questions must be practically considered.

Let’s be realistic
Anyone that manages knows that regardless of your leadership skills, other factors affect employees. Pay/benefits, strategy, competition, and organizational culture all affect individual employees and morale/engagement. 

While leadership probably has the biggest impact on day-to-day engagement, there are many factors in building engagement. Successful organizations will consider both; why they need engagement and what to do about it.

I look forward to your thoughts,

Charley Morrow

1 comment:

michael cardus said...

feedback for executive leaders is often challenged in anecdotal forms. When leaders see survey results and are able to have feedback in the form of a coach and perhaps 360 feedbacks. Then the next step is taken to explore how this dis-engagement is impacting the org. i.e.retention, $$).
This is sadly too late.
Great Stuff!