Management’s Dirty Little Secret

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Management’s Dirty Little Secret by James Porter, 24th October 2017

The terms ‘Employee Engagement’ and ‘Employee Experience’ are thrown around all the time – but what do they really mean?

An engaged employee is defined as being happy in their job and genuinely striving to do their best. Conversely, a disengaged employee is someone who’s miserable in the workplace, has no desire to do a ‘good job’ and has a negative impact on others.

In a 2017 Deloitte survey on global human capital trends, nearly 80 percent of executives rated employee experience as very important, but just 24% felt their organisations were good at it.

Data collected by Gallup on the state of the workplace in the USA from around 196,000 employees, found that only 33% were engaged, 67% were not engaged. 51% were just treading water, and 16% were actively dis-engaged and harming their organisations.

It reminded me of an article written a few years ago by Gary Hamel – in which he suggested that most managers are more likely to douse the flames of employee enthusiasm than fan them.

And looking at both reports you’re struck by the recurring themes that come around time and again – so is it a case of poor performance by business leaders or is there an underlying phenomenon destroying what appears to be a simple fix?

One thing comes through loud and clear – any senior leader who’s serious about improving employee engagement needs to include an evolving programme of flexible working and collaboration.

Contrast that with organisations like IBM (and a few others) calling people back into the office. Here, you’d be forgiven for thinking that increasing employee disengagement to record levels is part of their remit. Perhaps board members are targeted on it – the mind boggles!

Joanne Payne, a solicitor with PwC recently posted findings from a survey that showed two in five low paid young parents are treated badly by their employer following requests to work flexibly.

Whilst many Millenials are inspired by the workplace glamour depicted in the media and the movies, it’s clear they expect flexible working options to made available to them – and they’ll vote with their feet if they don’t.

Generation X workers (born from the early 60s to early 80s) are the middle-aged workforce who have reached or are approaching the peak of their earnings potential. With experience, drive and personal commitments – they’re probably the most impactful and productive of all employees, and they need flexibility the most.

Typically doing demanding jobs, and likely to have moved to family-friendly places that require long commutes, time saved by remote and collaborative working is vital to Xers. And often with both partners working, dealing with family and domestic issues and holding down a responsible, well-paid job is challenging.

So here lies the employee engagement sweet spot. That vast pool of people in the engine room of organisations, who can make the difference between a high performing company, and one where it’s all going wrong.

So why’s it so hard for leaders to grasp this? Why are they failing to motivate their people when it all seems so simple? And let’s be frank here – it is clear they’re failing to engage most employees, because the facts from the research don’t lie.

So surely it’s obvious that enabling people to work and function in a flexible way that suits them drives up engagement and motivation, leading to increased productivity. Does anyone doubt that?

We’re called in by organisations who realise they need to do something and want to change the way they work.

Successful flexible working initiatives don’t happen by accident. And in fact, most fail to deliver the expected benefits because key elements in the process are nearly always missed.

If this is making sense and you’re nodding in agreement – then reach out to us for some further insight.

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