What Needs To Happen For Employee Engagement To Be Successful?

There are some really great stories out there about successful employee engagement practices at workplaces.  Employees focus on innovative ideas that help make improvements and save money for organizations so they remain competitive.  There are also organizations who have problems starting an  employee engagement process and either don’t understand why or say they are but really are not.

So if you’re a manager and sincerely interested in starting an employee engagement process what do you need to do to make it a success?  There are some specific aspects that can help and we’re going to blog about them starting with this blog.  Other items will be identified in future blogs.  We also have some specific examples that will help to identify what to do and what not to do.

The most important fundamental aspect that is required for employee engagement or any change process there is commitment and buy-in at the top so the process will be supported.   First, of course, is to meet with the CEO, unless that person has already declared support, and then the rest of the executive staff.  Executives may need to understand how employee engagement will benefit them but it will also be important to identify potential problems that could occur.  It’s a good idea to anticipate some of the questions they will have.  In other words, maybe some FAQs need to be prepared.  Having that buy-in or commitment will also help with the skepticism that may be out there especially if the organization tried other processes in the past and gave them up.  If you don’t have the buy-in and support, don’t start it because the process won’t work and it could cause problems if you try it again in the future or it could harm any other change process in the future.  The following two examples are what can happen when there is no commitment.

This first example is one we experienced that pertains to this issue was with a labor-management committee we were training.  Under a grievance settlement, both sides agreed to labor-management committee effectiveness training not only to help with their relationship but help with issues related to the grievance.   Even though the training application was signed by both the union and executive management giving their commitment to the process, management said during the third day of training they had no intention of really doing labor-management cooperation.  They only did it for the settlement.  There never was commitment or buy-in.  Obviously, the training and labor-management cooperation was done.  In addition, the ability to do anything together in the future was hampered because of the trust levels that were broken.  Trust was not high to begin with but it was even lower because of this.

Another example is an article from the Wall Street Journal posted on msn.com about Kimberly-Clark.  Kimberly-Clark has been concerned about long-term viability just like many other organizations. According to another article, Good To Great:  Reinventing HR at Kimberly-Clark, the culture in K-C was very conducive for a team based environment.  It had a family-like environment and employees worked there forever without concern of being laid off.  Pay was good so very few people left for other jobs.   But in 2008 everything changed.

The CEO of the company, who had been there for over 30 years himself, decided it was time to change because there appeared to be a lack of innovation and the company wasn’t providing enough for shareholders.  Instead of getting buy-in from executives to change, K-C did the exact opposite. At a meeting with executive staff, some concluded the innovation problem must be with themselves, the executive staff, and decided an outside consultant was needed to do an executive staff assessment.  Since some of the executives did not agree the problem rested with them, they were not happy about the staff assessment.  These people balked and were ready to resign, and they did once the assessment confirmed executive staff was the problem.    For a company that had little turnover before, the turnover rates started to increase beginning with the executives.

Considering there was a lack of buy-in on the cause and the solution of the problem from the executives, it gives a good indication it probably has been difficult to make any change.  Not to mention placing blame on people who didn’t feel they deserved probably caused lower morale and less productivity.

We recognize commitment and buy-in as the most important indicator of success.  Without either, it becomes very difficult for a group to accomplish anything in the entire organization for any type of change process.  In addition, the lack of buy-in or commitment impacts other areas related to group process.  Basically, the entire process fails, trust is non-existent and, probably, in time if nothing changes, the future of the organization can be at stake.

We’ll be addressing the other items needed for an employee engagement process in the near future.  Continue reading our blogs for more discussion on employee engagement processes!

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About CALMC Blog

Columbus Area Labor-Management Committee is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to involving employers and employees to preserve jobs, resolve workplace issues, and promote labor-management cooperation. Visit our website at http://calmc.org
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