Gallup did an interesting study recently. It said that half of the 100 million full-time employees are not truly engaged in their work and tend to perform at a much lower level. Imagine the productivity loss from those 50 million employees each year.
What makes it worse is that another 16% of the workforce is in a neutral position: Not fully engaged and have gripes that their needs aren’t being met, nor do they understand their job expectations. Unhappy employees show their disenchantment is many ways. Some are overt while others are invisible: A negative attitude, absenteeism, high turnover, declining performance, a low energy level and limited interactions with the boss or peers are a few indicators.
What’s the problem? The question is better asked with “Who is the problem?” There are actually two causes: The boss and the company. The boss, for not understanding the different needs of their employees and missing the skills, knowledge or experiences to effectively supervise others. Nor do they have the ability to manage the issues as a day-to-day supervisor. The company, on the other hand, usually doesn’t train, develop or mentor their supervisors in how to manage an effective work group.
Think about how supervisors are chosen. Usually it’s a successful sales person that becomes a sales manager, or a good accountant becomes an accounting supervisor, or a customer service representative is now supervising 25 people. What made them a terrific performer may be the reason they’re not a good supervisor: Shifting from a high performer to a supervisor means changing from an individual contributor with a personal success path, to a supervisor whose objective is trying to affect success in others. New supervisors are usually chosen because they’ve been around longer and have shown results in their prior job. Should that be the requirements of a new supervisor? I don’t think so.
The question that begs to be answered is: What would happen if an organization was able to raise the level of those highly engaged from 50% to 75%? Here are some potential implications:
- A 25% higher level of performance than before with the same number of employees
- An organization would need 25% fewer employees to obtain the same results
- Costs would go down
- Productivity would go up
So, what does an enlightened management do to increase performance, engage their employees and prepare them for their future responsibilities?
- Provide employees with leadership opportunities early in their careers: Task groups, problem solving teams, and so on. Find out who has the ability to lead others.
- Provide employees with initial training in leading a work group. Nurture growth.
- Provide supervisory training, both content and process (the “what” and the “how”)
- Make sure employee expectations are clearly defined.
If your organization doesn’t train you, get it on your own. It’s your future we’re talking about.
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