Monthly Archives: November 2015

Keys to Employee Engagement: 8. Mission

We’re in the home stretch now.  We’ve been discussing topics that can not only elevate your company’s image but also help attract great talent.

The eighth question in the Q12 is “Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?”

Missionaries are people who hold such a fundamental belief in a cause they feel compelled to persuade others to support their cause.

Mission, DirectionA belief that your work can benefit others can be a strong driving force behind employee engagement.  Companies who are perceived to serve a good cause also attract good quality candidates.

When we hear the term “mission” in the context of business, “mission statement” is usually the first thing that comes to mind.  While the best mission statements are clear, succinct and powerful, most are long-winded, created by committee and pasteurized to the point they no longer have any relevance.

If you go out on the shop floor and ask employees about their company’s mission statement watch for their reaction.  If they laugh or snicker, it probably means they don’t buy into the mission statement. If their eyes light up and they talk about what they do, they not only have bought into the mission statement, they’re also clearly engaged,

When I worked at Plasmatreat, customers would frequently say, “Ron, you really seem to enjoy your job!” My response was usually that our technology was very effective and made a huge difference in customers’ productivity and product reliability.  In some cases, we made what seemed impossible possible.  Very much like a missionary, I saw my job as getting as many people as possible converted to our technology, and so was very enthusiastic.  My enthusiasm translated into persuasion, which resulted in sales.

Often, some of our business came about through referrals from customers who, themselves, became missionaries for our technology. This became evident to me when I visited a plant that was part of a large multi-plant organization.  I’d sold a system to a sister plant and, when I visited this second plant, I recognized one of the operators from the first plant I’d sold to.  He was there are part of a best-practices exchange and had been telling his colleagues at this second plant about how our technology was making a difference to his home plant. With internal support like that, it’s no wonder I was able to sell our technology to multiple locations.

With a force like that behind you, it’s not hard to get up in the morning every day and to go out and try to find new converts.

Our next post will discuss the ninth question, “Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?”

Keys to Employee Engagement: 7. Opinions

The seventh question in the Q12 is “At work, do my opinions seem to count?”

Many companies have tried suggestion boxes in an effort to get input from their employees.  Often these efforts fail for a number of reasons:

A Bad Idea for a Suggestion Box

How employees view the suggestion box.

If the employee’s suggestion saves the company a significant amount of money and the employee receives no monetary reward. Operational suggestions will dry up because employees feel management is trying to take credit for their thinking.

Sometimes the employees don’t take the suggestion box seriously and submit inane (sometimes profane) suggestions. Probably, in cases such as this, the employees feel distanced from their managers by being forced to contribute their ideas to a box instead of to a person.

Sometimes management pays only lip service to the suggestion process.  They may say they’re listening to employees but they never provide any feedback or act on the suggestions that get submitted. Employees give up because they see no value in the process.

One easy thing that can be done to encourage more suggestions to be made by employees at all levels is for managers to get out of their offices and interact with their employees.  It’s not enough to do it once a year; it has to be done regularly to be effective and for employees to accept it’s not a management gimmick. By being visible and approachable, employees will feel more comfortable coming forward to offer suggestions. Besides, the suggestion box is such an impersonal way to obtain input.

If you use a suggestion box, ensure every employee understands it’s their right to voice their opinions.  Sure, you’ll get some rants from the disgruntled and disaffected but, if you see a consistent pattern of comments coming from several employees, that should be a red flag there’s something you should be acting on.  Even if all you do is explain the reasons behind some company policy or procedure it’s better than ignoring the issue altogether.

Another thing that can help is to act on employee suggestions.  Everyone loves to see ideas or dreams become reality, and your employees are no exception. Implementing employee ideas will instil pride in your team, and it will encourage more employees to bring their ideas forward.

I once had a new packaging customer it had taken my team almost two years to develop, and we wanted to make a good first impression on our first order.  Although our plant was a union shop, I brought together the operators who’d be working on the order and asked them how they thought the order should be run and what would be the best materials to use.  When the customer received his order, he called me up and said it was the best flexo printing he’d ever seen.  The production team were justifiably proud of what they’d accomplished. 

Interestingly, the union never raised a concern about how we managed this project.  I think they saw this as a sign their members were being listened to and that their expertise was valued.

So, make a plan to get out of your office and devote 10%, 20% or 30% of your time to actively interacting with other employees in your company. Likely, within 6 months, you’ll notice a big positive change in performance.