Every client I work with to improve Employee Performance struggles with the reality of Employee Engagement. While every Manager knows that without meaningful Employee Engagement in the Work Process at every level of the organization, the Company cannot thrive in the hypercompetitive world of the Knowledge Economy, few understand how to get beyond the buzz word of “empowerment” and actually engage Employees in the Work Process. I believe the answer to this issue is simply: Engagement consists of giving Employees more control over working conditions that directly affect them by involving them in solving the problems they face while doing their work. While this is an obvious solution, a Workshop on Problem Solving & Decision Making I conducted this week revealed the difficulties involved in transferring that control to Employees.
In this Workshop, I discussed with 27 Front Line Leaders the necessity of including Core Employees and certain Temporary Employees (Gen Yers who show the potential to become Core Employees) in the Problem Solving Process, now being done exclusively by those formally appointed Front Line Leaders. They immediately rejected the idea because: 1) they are the Company’s Problem Solvers and 2) Employees don’t want to be included in Problem Solving. I then asked them to consider the following:
1) 80% of the problems they face on a daily basis are routine/recurring problems that could easily be solved by the Employees bringing the problems to their attention;
2) They are wasting their time solving problems that can be delegated to others who have the skill set necessary to solve those problems;
3) They need to use their time in the Decision Making Process where a resolution of the remaining 20% of the issues they face on a daily basis – the Information, Performance and Resource Gaps between what is suppose to happen and what actual does happen – can move their operation to the next level of performance and efficiency by eliminating the routine/recurring problems;
4) The inclusion of Core Employees and the upper level Temporary Employees in the Problem Solving Process will lighten their workload and make them more successful Front Line Leaders;
5) Core Employees, who have the skill set and the desire, do want to be involved in the Problem Solving Process – but they have to be invited/coaxed into it by the Front Line Leaders. Most Core Employees learned in the Command and Control Industrial Economy their opinions/ suggestions were not welcome. As my Dad, a Core Employee who worked in a General Motors Plant, used to say “When I punch in they tell me to leave my brain at the time clock.”;
6) Including other Employees in the Problem Solving Process, does not mean Front Line Leaders give up the decision making authority. The workplace is not a democracy and the final decision as to the Solution to be applied to the Problem rests with the Front Line Leader who must ensure the Problem is solved in the best way under existing circumstances;
7) Including Core Employees in the Problem Solving Process is an essential part of the Succession Planning Process; and
8) Including Gen Yers in the Problem Solving Process is an essential part of the Mentoring and Development Process every Front Line Leader must have to retain new Employees coming into the Workplace.
After discussing these eight items in detail, a majority of the Front Line Leaders agreed that inclusion of Core Employees and the upper level Temporary Employees in the Problem Solving Process would increase Employee Engagement in the Work Process and improve their operations. The Bottom Line: Front Line Leaders need to change their mindset about Employees in the Problem Solving Process and view this inclusion as an essential part of their job as Front Line Leaders. And cut the crap about not having enough time to do it!