It’s easy for leaders to get caught up in strategy, reports, and metrics. After all, those are pillars of the work. Unfortunately, hyperfocusing on the inputs and outputs can come at the expense of losing touch with the very people who execute those strategies. When leaders are disconnected from the workforce, they not only risk a drop in morale but also face tangible setbacks like reduced productivity, increased turnover, and even a hit to the bottom line. Here are some of the biggest factors that limit engagement, and what you can do about them.
Maintaining connection with employees can be especially challenging for frontline organizations. In our experience, three key reasons can explain why.
Leaders are often physically separated from those in entry-level positions. For frontline employees, this is especially true, and extends to even those in tenured roles, simply because of the nature of the work. Managers aren’t typically on the warehouse floor, at the front desk, or in the cab with a truck driver. This physical distance inherently limits the interactions managers will have with staff.
When leaders do get information from frontline workers, the data that does reach the executive suite often lacks the context needed to make it actionable. Worse still, it may not be tied to meaningful business outcomes, paving the way for leadership teams to de-prioritize raised issues, even if not intentionally.
While many leaders think they are communicators, in reality, they are broadcasters. Without a feedback loop with information coming back to leadership from the field, leaders have little to no insight into what’s actually happening. So, they may deliver company messages that they think employees are trying to align with, but the truth is workers are focused on different priorities for reasons managers don’t even know about — and usually it’s because there is no effective way to send the news back up the chain.
Real engagement considers each of these sticking points, and strategically overcomes them. First, it’s crucial to bridge the gap between management’s priorities and worker priorities. One way to do this is by establishing a goal structure for workers that aligns with the company’s larger objectives. By connecting a worker’s performance back to company goals, workers gain a shared interest in company performance and growth. It’s also important to understand that the shared interest is the objective at hand. So, make it interesting. Do not simply demand more work that fits your needs. Instead, find alignment. Often, this can come in the form of compensation, perks and benefits. Incorporate incentives into your goals and make them worthwhile. Re-think pay packages when necessary to add these incentives, giving employees an opportunity to earn more as they do better for the company. A rising tide lifts all boats.
Next, get better data from the field by asking for it. Put a system in place that can capture feedback from your workforce on a regular basis — and keep it simple. Nobody wants a complicated process for communication. Make it easy for workers to offer their feedback. Keep the communication lines open, and create anonymity where possible. Anonymous channels offer even more opportunities for workers to engage, eliminating the fear of reprisal or embarrassment. These ongoing interactions will boost trust and transparency between leaders and the workforce, creating a clear and accurate view of organizational progress. This proactive approach also allows leaders to catch issues early before they escalate.
Finally, create your feedback loop. To really understand what is happening within your organization, communication cannot be one-sided. In addition to establishing clear and trustworthy channels for employees to communicate with leaders, there should also be a mechanism by which leaders can acknowledge what they’ve heard, and how they’ve acted upon the information they’ve been given. This loop is the driving force of workforce engagement, helping workers know that the feedback they shared is valued, and giving leaders an opportunity to improve the status quo while simultaneously improving company culture.
To learn how WorkHound can help you better understand what’s happening in your organization, contact us for a free demo.