14 Jan Front Line Employees and Engagement

Many employees have experienced situations in their careers where they felt truly engaged in the activities of the organization.  Similarly, many people have experience the feeling of disengagement.  In most cases the differences between engaged and dis-engaged organizations are found at either senior or middle management levels.  Without seeking to describe all the characteristics of effective leaders and the impact of an engaged workforce, there are a few trends that we see in business today that are major differentiators when it comes to engaged versus disengaged employee groups, these include:

  • In engaged organizations, people at all levels fulfill their roles (and only their roles) professionally, from the shop floor to the C-Suite
  • In engaged organizations, communication, and especially communication from the corporate level, is audience focused.

In organizations with disengaged employees we tend to see professionals and managers who are quick to step in and take over their subordinate’s responsibilities, to issue instructions, to over-rule decisions that the subordinate ought to be making.  These supervisors and managers may complain that their subordinate won’t step up, so they have to step in.  However not letting someone do their job guarantees they will never step up.  The subordinate ends up feeling diminished and disengaged.  In extreme cases virtually every level on the company’s org chart is actually performing the role that ought to be done one or even two levels lower.

Where corporate communication contributes to the sense of disengagement it is often because executives communicate corporate messages in terms that make sense to the executive level.  For some reason these leaders believe that just because it resonates with them, it will resonate with everyone else.  Executives with powerful communication skills are able to take a single message and adapt the language and provide context that resonates with multiple audiences.  Therefore, the way the executive talks about a particular issue to management, to the engineering group or the shop floor should be noticeably different. The practice of running everyone in the company through the same slide deck is badly flawed.