Tag Archives: Employee Engagement

Listening to whispers amidst the bugles

“I found that the most rewarding moments of my work-life were not when I got attention, but when I felt good at the end of a hard day’s work”

 So nod the ‘invisibles’, as they are termed, of an organization.

 They are the ones leaders do not see, but experience their strength. The ones whose punch they feel without seeing their fists. They are the squares that do not need managers pegging them into the traditional round holes.

 As a manager, as a leader, how do you manage them? Recognize them? Reward them? Motivate them?

 “Puhleeez!” This is the ‘Invisible’ wincing. “Please do not think of me that way.”

 And that is why they are different. They defy typifying even in being different. So let us just take a tour of their psyche first – enjoying what we see, without even attempting to join any dots.

 Make no mistake, they are extremely crucial to your success. No organization can do without them. Yet, they do not hang their coats on the pegs of the conventional modes of rewards and recognition that an organization must execute to cater to the majority. Their traits are strongly tied to their unique and individual perceptions of achievement and life satisfaction – their benchmarks are as simple as they are exceptional!

 It is a no-brainer to assume that they do not like self-branding. Even as they pursue excellence, they are uncomfortable drawing attention to how good or essential they are. The “Aha” moments they create for themselves exhilarate them and make them feel satisfied in a way that a pat-on-the-back most certainly would not.

 Touch me? Touch me not?

That is the billion-dollar dilemma of managers and leaders. You cannot ignore them, you cannot blaze the spotlight on them. You cannot not see them, you cannot place them on a pedestal. They whisper, but come out louder than the bugles – and they cringe when you silence the noise to hear their whisper.

 And certainly you cannot let them go unrewarded. Like someone so aptly remarked, their lack of self-promotion is definitely not a lack of what they are worth.

 Perhaps a good place to start with would be the work environment itself. Can leaders create an environment that reassures there is no need to toot one’s horn? A team-oriented atmosphere that affirms the focus is on the collective energy of its members and not on individual image building?

 Maybe respect would be a good second on the list. Respect their need to raise performance across the team, not just being singled out for excellence. Acknowledge and allow, as invisibly as they keep their presence, their need to create (and not merely be given) intrinsically rewarding work for their team, not merely for themselves.

 Amidst the possible ‘Dos’ there could be one important ‘Don’t’ in dealing with them. And that is telling them in their performance reviews of the need to be more visible and more vocal for their success. Conditioned as we are to the success factors of relentless networking and stakeholder management, we may perceive the ‘invisibles’ as shy whispering individuals. In reality, theirs could be a powerful attitude and ability to quietly observe and listen to those around them, and guide them to finding the answers themselves.

 In so doing they could teach many a humbling lesson in leadership. Of how to influence with a quiet passion and love for work, and totally without authority.

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Add meaning to engage?

Some say it is about creating a vision that everyone feels part of. It is about understanding what motivates them, say others. Hmm…says the practical cynic, it is only about making sure the way people behave supports your organizational revenue goals, velvet-gloved as values.

Employee Engagement. Everyone hears the buzz, but is it the honey they taste or the sting they feel? Statistics further spice up discussions. Only 14 to 30 percent of employees are engaged at work, screams a survey – and we have dozens of extrapolations of how much more productive organizations can be if engagement went up by even 5 percentage points.

Fad or truth, fluff or real, it begs attention. Not the jargon-coated icing but the plain vanilla.

How do we spark the “wanting-a-life-that-counts” enthusiasm in the employees who spend roughly 1/3 of the hours they are alive at work? For, at the core, all of us want to have an impact on people and situations that touch our lives.

The responsibility starts at the top, without a doubt. The leadership team must be engaged themselves; they must be role models for this behavior with their direct reports—who then do the same for their teams. For supervisors, managers and leaders, this must light a fire under their chairs to make work more meaningful for those they work with.

The stark truth in today’s business scene – and this is to be taken with no inciting emotion – is that loyalty cannot be rewarded the way it was in the past. That career progress is a spiral and not a ladder. The good news is that the ‘more-with-less’ credo is understood and agreed on both sides of the table.

The paycheck, the bonuses and other rewards…these are driven by revenue and budgets, as they should be. Let us go beyond tying the incompatible knot between genuine meaning at work and monetary rewards.   How can organizational leadership add motivation based on the employees’ roles themselves?

For starters, can leaders creatively design a role-based model that explains employee engagement starting with the end goal in mind? Most organizations have a model that splits an employee’s role into core (what is in the job description) and non-core but value added competencies. Can each leader understand his business well enough to make the roles of the ‘innovator’, ‘the career developer’ and ‘the organizational team member’ roles more exciting for his members? Visibility, respect, acknowledgment and recognition for skills beyond the core job competencies are powerful motivators that tap into the longing to make contributions beyond oneself. They are happier and more excited when they are successful in both roles.

Within the everyday status quo, leaders can opt for a fair number of possibilities – deliberate responsibility rotation, opening channels of learning, increasing opportunities for direct interaction with customers and senior leadership, open decision-making, wise deployment of individual, cluster and mass communication, artful and timely positive and corrective feedback…

For the organization too, this translates into tangible benefits.

Employees, when part of a team that develops company-specific knowledge, become assets who understand, with pride and depth, the culture and objectives of the organization. They engage in behaviors that support the organization instead of their own jobs and these behaviors bring high value to productivity.

But like I said, it has to start above. Leaders need to walk the talk – confused, distracted and dejected leaders kill employee engagement. They need to, with clarity and conviction, articulate how each role helps support the business goals and strategy. They must provide meaning, support and pride for the value-added roles.

This may then set a better context and direction for employee engagement and lend better value for the time, effort and money invested in initiatives in this area.