There is an old and somewhat cynical saying which goes like this; “Some companies pay staff just enough money to stop them leaving and the staff do just enough work to stop themselves getting fired!”
It may be old and cynical but it is sadly still true in many businesses that I observe BUT others have thankfully moved on and a key ingredient to that is ‘employee engagement’.
Many companies have tried to implement ‘employee engagement’ initiatives but given up when they haven’t seen immediate results. As such many now doubt the benefits BUT not me! Let me tell you what employee engagement means to me by explaining what employee disengagement means to me based on my extensive observations across many industry sectors.
Employee disengagement occurs for many reasons BUT the main ones are lack of responsibility and flexibility to use their common sense (initiative). The reason companies give very little responsibility to staff is they fear they will either make mistakes or give things away! They base their ‘rules’ on their lowest common denominator; their problem staff that without strict guidelines will make stupid errors “without thinking”. These staff members may account for less than 5% of the team BUT the rules are enforced across the other 95% of the team as well.
How do you think this makes the 95% feel? Unmotivated, frustrated, belittled, treated like kids and disengaged! As a result performance drops and attrition rates soar. Your managers spend more time recruiting than managing.
Switch Up The Rules
So here is a simple solution. Do a complete switch and base your ‘rules’ around what your ‘star’ performers are capable of handling. Encourage them to use discretion and flexibility within agreed tolerances. Allow them to make the decision with the client first and then justify it, if required to you afterwards.
Use effective performance management to remove those incapable of making informed decisions (the 5%) out of your business and recruit better next time. You will quickly create a team that feels trusted and valued, your customer service standards will soar and your attrition rates will be low. Your managers can then switch their time from constant recruitment to people development.
All sounds great, I hear you say but what about the commercial risk to my business by allowing such a switch? Of course there is a risk and like all change in practices it will need careful planning and staff education (which comes at a cost too!). Having said that what are the costs of ‘revolving door’ recruitment? What is the cost to your business of poor customer service?
The positives far outweigh the negatives for me on every facet of business and having seen it work in a number of forward thinking businesses I encourage you to do the same.
Head of Training
Originally published: 12 August, 2013
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