Engaging the Employee Stakeholder

December last year I facilitated a one day program at a conference called Strategic Employee Engagement. The lessons learned from interacting with the audience made me respond yesterday on the ODNet list to a rant on so called soft skills. My response to someone’s e-mail, evoked a number of requests for my PowerPoint presentation (Contact me and I will gladly send you a copy).

This was my e-mail response:

Companies today have to manage a complex web of relationships with a variety of stakeholders in order to establish a lasting and favourable impression in the minds of those stakeholders. That reputation in turn influences buying behaviors, investment behaviors, and the attraction and retention of staff.

A Crucial word that is used in those circles are engagement.

In December last year I was asked to facilitate a day conference replacing another speaker on the topic Strategic Employee Engagement. So, I had to get up to speed with latest knowhow quickly, obviously I had some.

Some thoughts I shared with the audience:

What is Employee Engagement?

“The state of emotional and intellectual commitment of a person, group or organisation to the entity with whom they are employed.” Source: Hewitt

Engagement defined as “employees who are mentally and emotionally invested in their work and in contributing to their employer’s success.”

The Benefits of Employee Involvement & Engagement – Employee involvement makes sense because . . .

· They are closest to where the action is

· They tend to know the areas of greatest pain for themselves and for the stakeholder

· They have a vested interest in making the job go easier

· They want to feel good about the work that they do . . . that it makes a difference….

I concluded by stating that the Employee stakeholder can create enough reputation risk to cripple an organisation today. Managing that interface has become a strategic imperative.

*** I also went on to say during my presentation, that I have a lot more to share, but could not due to time constraints.

These thoughts cover the spectrum of communication, culture and traditional HR responsibilities but have a huge impact on engagement of the employee stakeholder.

So here goes:

Never in history have organisations had such a need to communicate effectively and consistently. We have laws on what to say to job candidates and how to deal with them and laws on what we must say to employees who are exposed to potential risks on the job. The problem is that all of these processes are mandatory and tries to institutionalize something which is based on trust, respect and caring.

We have many different tools at our disposal, but they all need a foundation from which to start.

The crucial prerequisite for Effective Employee Relations, Effective Engagement and communication is the creation of a positive organisational climate based on feelings of trust, confidence and openness.

This premise creates the foundation for effective engagement. To create the right conditions a successful communication policy should be developed and implemented in organisations that are built on management’s desire to:

j04094041. Inform employees of organisational goals, objectives and plans.

2. Inform employees of organisational activities, problems and accomplishments.( Open Book Management Philosophy)

3. Encourage employees to provide input, information and feedback to management based on the experiences, creativity and insights.(PROPER suggestion schemes)

4. Level with employees about negative, sensitive or controversial issues.

5. Encourage frequent and honest job-related two-way communication among managers and their subordinates.

6. Communicate important events and decisions as quickly as possible to all employees.

7. Establish a climate where innovation and creativity are encouraged.

8. Have every manager and supervisor discuss with subordinates their progress and position in the firm.( Performance Management systems)

These principles stated above must be the underlying focus for any programme and should be embodied in a written document which becomes part of the organisation’s Policies and Procedures manual.

This takes time as communication is ongoing, not static – and people should take the time, to improve it. The problem is that the process of communication is so intertwined with all the other organisational problems that it therefore becomes difficult for managers to find out the real price they pay for lack of communication with their employees, because the price is part of what is not communicated.

The costs in lowered morale, lost sales, poor customer service, and lost market share often are attributed to increased global competition, rising input costs, and systems problems, rather than simple communication itself.

One reason for this failure to see communication problems as the cause of organisational problems is that we all understand ourselves perfectly. Therefore we assume that we have made ourselves clear, when all we have really done is make ourselves clear to ourselves.

And here is the fallacy – Effective Communication just does not happen on its own accord. It must be planned and scheduled. It must have task support. Someone in every organisation must manage it and support it and champion it. Strategies and systems must be co-ordinated and brought into alignment with an organisation’s goals and culture. And Communication is the glue that makes it possible.

Every organisation wants to enhance its performance. More and more, communication is being touted as the key. What organisations need are formal communication systems that play the following roles:

  • Articulating and communicating the organisation’s goals, values, culture, and image;
  • Defining and clearly explaining the roles and activities necessary to reach the organisation’s goals
  • Interviewing and selecting the right people;
  • Providing them with the necessary information and skills to do their jobs well;
  • Giving feedback and coaching on individual and group performance;
  • Creating a culture that nurtures open, honest, fair, and multi way flows of communication and collaboration;
  • Collecting and analysing key performance indicators, strategic plans, and policies;
  • Managing information flow rates to optimise an individual’s ability to use it ( e.g Training in financial literacy for instance);
  • Establishing standards and policies so that internal and external communication is audited and aligned with organisational values and goals.

What is needed is a far more holistic approach to solving organisational problems and the problems of implementing improved employee practices or so called engagement of the employee stakeholder.

Investigating the role improved and enhanced communication practices can play is paramount to an organisation’s success. What are needed are managers and leaders that are prepared to tackle this age old problem. And that is the crux of the matter.

Ask yourself truthfully and honestly: "What breaks down more often than the photocopier or delivery vehicle?" Communication, of course. What must stop is rhetoric! Action speaks louder than words. Tackle communication problems in your organisation.