Effective employees will strive to deliver their companies’ goals and help them thrive when they have a good experience.
Year after year, employers conduct engagement surveys, form focus groups to analyse collected data, and recommend actions to improve employee engagement and contributions. However, few companies commit time and effort to evaluate post-survey actions and review what works and what doesn’t. Beyond measurements, organisations should focus on creating an enabling experience that encourages engaged employees to be effective. They should understand the barriers to engagement and enablement that prevent employees from achieving greater effectiveness.
Organisations must translate useful input into organisational actions that actively drive business strategy in a technologically advanced and rapidly-changing volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) environment.
The evolution of assessing employees’ feelings and attitudes towards their work started in the late 1960s/early 1970s in Singapore as shown in Figure 1. Back then, it was about employee morale leading to satisfaction and commitment. Companies were conducting climate surveys, first measuring the morale of their employees, and then their satisfaction at work. Soon, it was clear that even though employees were satisfied and committed, they were lacking passion and excitement and falling short of becoming high performers. This led to employee engagement in 2000s. Today, we have taken it a step further: the interest is in maximising employee’s effectiveness, to be productive and creative. Before we discuss employee effectiveness, we should note that achieving engagement is still a problem in many organisations.
The most obvious problem areas are:
Listening to Employees
Most companies do not listen to their employees enough. The companies that regularly earn high employee engagement
tap knowledge by asking employees important questions such as how the company could improve their business, and what barriers hinder their effectiveness. They value employees’ answers. Listening to employees is an important means of gathering data and information. They ask and listen hard to the answers. They consult with employees and take action. Their employees love it and feel that they are part of the company’s drive to improve and innovate.
Until quite recently, only multinational companies (MNCs) have paid such close attention to engagement. However, with today’s drive for a lean workforce, higher productivity, and innovation, small- and medium-sized companies (SMEs) must understand that engagement means a greater involvement of employees beyond commitment. They must realise that by treating their employees differently and by involving themselves more, they would achieve better financial results, business expansions, and enjoy happier employer-employee relationships.
Conducting Effective Conversations
Another area that impedes engagement is ineffective conversations. Conversations between the superior and the immediate subordinates have to be meaningful and effective. This is particularly true in the case of SMEs. Unlike MNCs, verbal and face-to-face communications are the most common forms of communication in SMEs. It is important to train managers and supervisors on the attributes of effective conversations which are energising, engaging, and influencing.
- Energise. Conversations must be intensive and intentional so that the rationale for how work is done and how performance is measured are well-communicated.
Engage. Conversations have to be interactive. Listening to employees and implementing their suggestions are the best ways of engaging them.
Influence. Conversations have to be inclusive. Interest in employees’ perspectives and opinions are best demonstrated through changes which are implemented or explored for future action.
Achieving Employee Effectiveness
Finally, how do companies achieve employee effectiveness? Companies should be guided by ‘FEED’:
F stands for fit—culture fit and job fit. In order to perform well, employees should have a good fit with a company culture and a job that leverages their strengths.
E stands for Engagement. Employees become engaged when they enjoy their work and see results.
E stands for Effectiveness. This is where leaders, managers, and supervisors help their employees become effective by coaching, mentoring, and showing a genuine interest. Leaders and managers become more involved as supporters and enablers rather than instructors and evaluators. They can help to remove obstacles to employees’ performance by providing a supportive environment,
efficient processes (applying technology), and information technology (IT) support. When such a transformation takes place, employees and their superiors bond on a different level, strive for common goals, and enjoy the journey together. This is where the whole process of higher productivity and greater creativity leading to innovation of products and services begins.
D stands for Delivery. Financial, productivity, and customer satisfaction targets are met when employees operate at their effectiveness level. Companies operating at this level are often ahead of their competitors because their employees are fully accountable, passionate, and emotionally invested about delivering results.
One example was an emotionally-invested section manager from a tightly-knitted team that excelled in performance. Despite being headhunted for a larger role and a higher pay package, he told his colleagues why he could not leave the company: “I cannot leave my boss in a lurch. He has taught me, promoted me, and given me an opportunity. If I resign and join another company, what would my subordinates think of me? Furthermore, I cannot bear to see our results affected.”
Employees strive to deliver their company’s goals whenever they have a good experience. They are quality- and cost-conscious, active and resourceful—innovating to bring forth a high level of customer satisfaction. For companies to thrive, employees must be effective.
Dr Elizabeth Martin-Chua is an Associate Trainer with SIM Professional Development. She was a facilitating faculty member for The Job of the Chief Executive (JOCETM) programme for 2016 and 2017. Please visit http://pd.sim.edu.sg/ for more information on SIM Professional Development programmes.
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