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Rules of Engagement

by S.E. Layton - August 1, 2016

Rules of Engagement 
By S.E. Layton
One of the prevalent issues in corporate America is the lack of associate engagement.  According to a recent poll, 26% of employees are actively disengaged from their respective companies, 45% are not engaged, and 29% of the workforce is engaged.
Having been an employee of several large financial institutions, I can attest to the accuracy of those results.  For eleven months out of the year, it was business as usual at these corporations.  Most of these companies had an associate engagement group who much like a prom planning committee had meetings and decided upon monthly “activities” for the employees.  These activities consisted of having candy bars delivered to your work station, Wii game contests, and a smoothie day.  The activities varied depending upon the individual corporations and their budgets.  The sole purpose of the associate engagement groups was to make the employees feel valued and that their work environment was fun.
Some of these companies even had an employee appreciation week where managers would be told to come to greet the employees with little trinkets when they entered the building. On the surface, this seems terrific! It would appear that the companies cared about their workers.  However, these activities did not make up for inflexible working hours, outdated employee reviews and a myriad of other internal issues.
Then the annual surveys would appear.  These surveys are designed to gauge employee attitudes toward their work environment.  There are sections devoted to the company, the senior management staff, the various departments and the worker managerial staff.  About a month before these surveys are released, the entire corporate culture whips itself into a frenzy in order to obtain maximum results.
Employees are then expected to participate in team builders which can occur on site or off site.  Unfortunately, attendance is usually mandatory.  Prior to the survey, team builders are usually frowned upon because they take away from worker productivity. 
Managers begin to enforce career pathing on their associates through up skilling and online tutorials. Sometimes the assigned tasks have nothing to do with what the associate is interested in but has been assigned because the manager has to fulfill associate engagement activities.
Employees are told to answer the survey questions honestly and that their feedback is confidential.  However, most of the surveys require that the participants sign in using an employee number.  This information is not supposed to be made available to managerial staff or department heads.  Depending upon the way the questions are answered, a manager can figure out which employees are dissatisfied. How can an employee be expected to answer a survey truthfully when there could possibly be repercussions?
There are ways to combat worker disengagement. Corporations have got to shift their cultural mindset. If employees see that their company is making an honest effort and are listening to their concerns, this can go a long way in retaining good people.  If workers are happy, they are going to do a better job and this is a win-win situation for organizations as well as the customers they serve.
Here are 5 Rules of Engagement suggestions that can be used to assist companies in providing a more fulfilling workplace for their employees:
1.       Work Life Balance – this is a hot button topic that will not go away. Associates want to be able to spend time with their families and participate in activities that are not work related. Not everyone thrives in an office environment. Offer flexible scheduling for people who have families or associates who are going to school.  Allow workers the ability to work from home part time or full time after 90 days of consistency in achieving their goals. In other words, give people options.  Gone are the days of punching a clock and working 24-7.
2.       Transparency – this used to be a buzz word in the 00’s.  Every company was transparent, on their terms.  The game of cloak and dagger is still prevalent in most organizations under the guise that employees are on a “need to know” basis.  This thinking is so 1950’s.  Your workers want to know what challenges their companies are facing and what directions the companies are considering.  They want to be involved. The more involved employees are, the more productive they are. 
3.       Competent Management- I cannot stress this fact enough. Organizations need to get better at training their managerial staff.  Ensure that managers are equipped with the necessary tools to instruct and develop their employees. Offer a variety of course and workshops for your managers to take dealing with company products, new company technology, psychology, and staff coaching.  Employees respect and work harder for managers who are knowledgeable and care about them.
4.       Encourage Fun- This concept sounds deceptively simple but it is not. Try half day Fridays where employees can interact with their team through on site activities such as a game day or off site activities such as miniature golf or bowling. During activities such as the ones suggested, employees get to spend time with their fellow team members on a personal level.
5.       Office Hours- Remember college where mentors or instructors had after class hours where students could approach them for additional instruction or to answer questions?  Companies should allow managers to schedule some time throughout the work week where employees can approach them for assistance or career advice.  This time could also be spent mentoring individuals.  Upper management should also consider having office hours so that they can personally interact with employees.  By considering this option, employees will feel as if their concerns are important and that they are genuinely valued by the business.
These 5 rules are guidelines.  If they are implemented in some fashion, companies will see a rise in employee engagement because they are allowing their employees to be invested in the business.  It will take time to change corporate culture but if done properly, the benefits will be worth it!


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