Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Employee Engagement

Stefan Stern pokes some fun at the literature on employee engagement in the Financial Times. Stern wraps up the article by arguing that the best path to engaging employees is to share the unvarnished truth with them in these tough times. He quotes Archie Norman, the British businessman who turned around the Asda supermarket chain some years ago:

“We stated it as it was,” he told me. “You have to get people to face up to the reality. People will follow you...what they can’t stand is unrealistic, deluded leadership. When we said that the situation was very bad, that we were in survival mode, we got three cheers from the front line,” Mr Norman explained. “They said: ‘At last, somebody’s arrived who realises what it’s really like out there.’”

I would add one important note about employee engagement. If a firm wants to engage its workforce, it must focus first and foremost on the supervisor-employee relationship. Engagement begins with that relationship with one's direct supervisor. No matter what the firm does as a whole, if that communication and engagement does not exist in the one-on-one relationship with an individual's direct supervisor, then it's quite difficult for an organization to have a committed and productive workforce.