Are you rowing in the right direction?

I would like for you to think of your company as a canoe of 10 people, each with their own paddle. If the entire team is paddling in the same direction at the same rate, then success is just over the horizon. What happens if only 2 people are paddling in the right direction, 6 are just cruising along and 2 are actively paddling in the opposite direction?

I have been a part of a variety of different workplaces ranging from the military, government departments and the private sector. Each workplace was unique, yet surprisingly they had a lot of similarities when it came to the way they paddled their canoe or employee engagement.

Engagement is a state of being where employees are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace. When you have an engaged team ‘everyone’ is paddling together in the same direction.

The Gallup Organisation have been measuring engagement levels across the globe for over a decade and it may or may not surprise you that only 13% of the people in most workplaces are actively engaged in their jobs. Even more startling is that 63% of the workplace are not engaged and 24% of people are actively disengaged (Gallup’s Global Canoe).

What do these figures mean for your company’s canoe?

Well it means that if you are not doing something to address engagement it’s likely that 8 out of 10 employees are either coasting along or actively rowing against the company’s direction.  How on earth can this be a sustainable and viable business model?

The most common approach when organisations want to invest in improving their engagement levels is to send their front-line leaders on some training and expect that things will change from the ground up. The challenge with this approach is that frontline managers often have limited influence within an organisation. The real issue is about getting buy-in from the top?

From my own experience, delegating responsibility to the front-line managers (taking a ground up approach) never achieves the desired behavioural shifts that senior leaders are looking for. On the contrary, when organisations allocate responsibility for the changes to the senior leaders, change can and does actually happen.

There are three reasons why allocating responsibility to senior leaders work:

  1. If the senior leaders actually believe in the initiative, they commit time and energy to achieving it. They will champion the cause and will be seen by those around them as someone they should follow. Senior leaders have a greater ability to influence behavioural changes across the organisation.
  2. One of the main reasons organisations resist change is because systems, processes and unwritten rules (team norms) inhibit cultural transformation. Senior leaders have the power to change these so that culturally desired outcomes are achieved.
  3. According to Gallup, over 70% of engagement comes from leaders. Simply put when leaders are engaged so will their team be. Leaders committed to the vision and direction of the organisation will enhance the engagement levels of those they lead.

Just over a year ago I started working with a local company who found that their canoe (engagement levels) were on the same trajectory as Gallup’s Global Canoe. The results were raw and hit a nerve. To the senior leaders credit, they knew that for things to change they were the ones who would need to be personally responsible for the transformation. Together they committed to 12 months of personal and organisational development including:

  1. Putting in place mechanisms to ensure that all employees had the resources and support they needed to do their job.
  2. Investing in leaders so that they understood what it means to be an engaged leader and how they would support their staff more.
  3. Implementing team building initiatives to help staff connect to the broader team and companies’ purpose.
  4. Recognising the value of personal growth and progression and developing capabilities from within their teams.

Today they are not only in a better position than they were 12 months ago from a growth and profit perspective, their staff turnover has reduced, and their overall engagement results have increased significantly. In 12 months, they have seen the value in taking a top down approach to cultural transformation and engagement.

The Gallup Q12 is just one of the tools available for companies to measure how engagement can make a difference to their success. Without a strong investment from the senior leadership team to take personal responsibility for the change, you might as well get your team to complete one of those Facebook quizzes that tell you what type of animal or Simpsons’ character your organisation is.

Only when senior leaders recognise that to change the culture across the organisation, they need to be the ones actively committing to change and leading the way, that true cultural shifts are achieved.

If you want to know more about how we can help you with everything from cultural change to employee engagement, contact Scott today.