The folks at Gallup recently published the latest installment of their multi-year “State of the American Workplace”. Gallup’s bottom line is pretty depressing: Only “30% of the U.S. workforce is engaged in their work…meaning the vast majority of workers are not reaching their full potential”.
Never mind that objective definitions of their critical measures (“engaged”, “not engaged”, or “actively disengaged”) are missing from the study, so it’s hard to know what they’re really talking about.
Regardless, let’s take Gallup at their word. They’ve been sizing up worker engagement with this survey for more than a decade and companies are buying it; the survey has a gigantic sample size; and, most important, the survey asks some pretty good questions.
Here are a few of the statement the Gallup Survey asks employees to consider:
- In the past seven days, I received recognition or praise for doing good work.
- There is someone at work who encourages my development.
- At work my opinions seem to count.
- In the past six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
Fair enough. This is all basic stuff.
But if it’s not happening in your company/organization, it’s no wonder workers are “not engaged” or worse, “actively disengaged”!
Everyone deserves to know where s/he stands at work, to know their constructive opinions are valued and encouraged, and receive direction to become more proficient — at every level of the company, in every workgroup.
All this brings me to one of my favorite management “gurus”, Tom Peters. I like Tom because he forces you to think, re-think, and think again. You say “plan”; he says “planning is b.s.” You say “focus”, he says “W.T.T.M.S.W” (whoever tries the most stuff wins).
Tom’s twitter bio includes “professional agitator” and “the Red Bull of management thinking”. Check out his rants.
Nobody can carry on longer about being succinct; and nobody, but nobody can be more succinct. Tom is devoted to Twitter (although he can take four tweets to express a thought); one of my favorites captures his entire bestseller “In Search of Excellence” in one tweet:
“Cherish your people, cuddle your customers, wander around, ‘try it’ beats ‘talk about it’, pursue excellence, tell the truth.”
So, how do we apply Peters’ Principles to Gallup’s engagement survey?
M.B.W.A. That’s it. Period.
In Peters-speak that’s “Management By Wandering Around”.
If leaders were “wandering around”, Gallup’s Q Score would be wouldn’t be stuck with about 2/3 of American workers “disengaged”.
Company leaders must meet customers, must visit factory floors, must shop their own stores, must hustle suppliers and, in Peter’s works, must “cherish your people”. If leaders do it, at all levels, subordinates will do it; and workers will do it.
“Cherishing” others’ work means we are engaged; they will be, too. And it has to be continuous. That’s employee recognition in action.
Jack Welch, legendary CEO of General Electric, famously budgeted his time at the beginning of each year — a set percent devoted to meeting customers, to meeting workers, to meeting suppliers, to training future leaders. And he followed his plan.
So, if you want engaged employees, engage them; it’s all about employee recognition. Your company will be better for it.
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