Cisco Canada Blog

Step Out of the Box and Lead by Example: Driving Employee Engagement

September 18, 2011

Many employees are experiencing a sense of disillusionment in today’s work world.  According to over 40 Gallup polls, approximately 75% of employees are disengaged from their jobs.  Only three in ten workers are estimated to be truly “engaged;” employees who work with passion and who feel a profound connection to their company.  These surveys show similar patterns around the globe and what is most concerning is that this situation has been getting worse over the past couple of years. 

Gallup estimates that “actively disengaged” workers are costing businesses $300 billion a year in productivity losses.  What is causing 7 out of 10 workers to be totally disengaged by the workplace? The main culprits are bad managers and a lack of leadership.  What employees are saying is that:

  1. They don’t know what is expected of them
  2. Their managers don’t care about them as people
  3. Their managers tend to focus more on their weaknesses than their strengths
  4. Their jobs are not a good fit for their talents
  5. They have limited career paths in their current jobs
  6. Their views count for little

What this means is that leaders are failing to translate their messages through their management ranks to the employee level.  Maybe it’s time for us to take a look at how deep our communication programs run and whether tools like “Meeting-in-A-Box” and cascading communication are having the results we anticipated. And most importantly, we need to take a closer look at how employee surveys are being used in our organizations.  

Communication is a key driver of a company’s success and we need to start showing it through how we measure instead of trying to justify our existence through measurement. 

What employees are looking for in today’s work environment is crisp, simple communication that applies to their day-to-day jobs.   Employees are increasingly wary of corporate speak and communication that does not relate to them.  They want their leaders to be able to give them information that helps them be effective in their own jobs.  And most employees want to do a good job at work.

Many employee surveys, interviews by external consultants, 360-degree feedback, peer reviews and similar “tools” have not been used effectively.   Employees get their communication from how the organization acts—what gets noticed, who gets promoted, what gets senior managements attention and so on.  They are tired of posters with slogans and emails that tell them about the change initiative of the moment.  Some practical ways to go about building effective communication programs is looking deep inside and asking the tough questions:

  1. Are you providing employees with a lot of information or are you providing them with information they can act on?
  2. Are your organization’s presentations, meetings and messaging relevant to employees and provide the “so what?”  Do employees ask a lot of questions at meetings?
  3. Put yourself in the shoes of your employees.  How do you like to get information? What works well and what doesn’t?  What do your peers think?  What can you do to simplify the communication and make it more relevant for people so they can act on it in their day-to-day jobs? 
  4. Are you measuring to justify the need for communication programs or are you measuring as a way to make sure communication is on target?  Are you making the necessary changes based on the feedback?
  5. Are you working with other key individuals across your organization to make sure the information is seamless?  How much time are you spending with your training and leadership development department?
  6. Do you have a strong network inside and outside of your organization that you can brainstorm and innovate?  Are you connecting and collaborating with people who are facing similar communication challenges?

Employees do get excited and motivated when they are part of the process and when they are truly engaged.  Imagine what would happen if we gave managers, at all levels, the tools to become highly effective communicators?  With information overload and increasing discontent among employees, we need to use common sense to make sure the information and behaviour of leaders is aligned and consistent with their actions.  It’s not about the pretty slides; it’s about what leaders do.  It takes courage and conviction to be a good leader today.

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  1. Excellent post, Ayelet! As the CEO of an employee engagement company that provides coaching for employees at all levels, we hear these issues crop up in session all the time. Employees are hungry for better communications but don’t know to, well, communicate that to their managers. At Roving Coach we use very brief post-coaching session surveys (6-8 questions) to deliver high-level anonymous regular (weekly) data to leaders about what’s on employees’ minds and whether their T&D dollars are being used to greatest effect. Leaders can ask specific questions around, for example, manager communications or trust, whatever gaps they have identified. So rather than waiting a year between annual engagement surveys, leaders get dynamic data to help them identify trends and better target their ee development efforts.
    Thanks for bringing more light to this issue.
    CJ Scarlet
    Chief Rover
    Roving Coach International