Many books or blogs has been written regards the motivation of employees in the workplace over the years. Without doubt some of the advice given offers some guidance to rallying round the troops. Importantly, it never attacks the real question on employee performance . Above all, what turns them on in the first place? More importantly, what is turning them off? Time to be a detective in employee engagement.
Leadership is partly about inspiration. Creating the vision for the future and painting the scenery along the way. Resulting in the end game. Furthermore, what do you do when despite all the books, podcasts, management courses you just can’t seem to get the individuals motivated? People are complex and have obtuse behaviours regards work. Subsequently, it’s what is happening outside of work that effects the work on the inside. “I don’t bring my problems to work” is a strange concept in itself. That phrase has been religiously muted by all and sundry like its some demonstration on how committed they are? Clearly, I fail to see how you cannot be affected during the day to day strain of what we call “life”:
- Credit card debt or any debt for that matter
- Relationship problems
- Drug/alcohol problems
- Gambling addiction
- Severe Illness
- Mental health issues
In my career I have experience number of critical employee situations which were both testing and in most cases extremely sad:
- Nervous breakdown
- Shopping addiction
- Betting addiction
No matter your management qualification you will be left scrambling for a remedy. Sometimes there isn’t one outside of empathy and understanding. These cases are thankfully rare but still life changing for both the manager and employee.
But what about those employees who fall into a different category altogether? These employees are the most common and without doubt the most difficult to manage.
The Bullet Dodger
A true example of the bullet dodger is in the real life scenario that I experienced in my first role of management. A sales rep who I managed was quite simply lazy. All weekly reports were late, deadlines missed frequently and overall his administration was poor. Then it happened.
On the day concerned his holiday application for 10 days was thrust under my nose and he stood smiling awaiting my signature. I enquired politely what he was up to. Where was he off too? I then listened to the complete itinerary of his holiday. He was taking a team of under 12 years olds to play in a football tournament in Holland. The planning was intense as you would expect. Hotels, passports, medication for little Billy, departures, transfers, special meals for certain boys and overall a complete administration job at hand.” I can’t tell you the planning involved” he said thrusting out his chest in immense pride.
So he had the skills but he just chose not to use them. Bizarre considering his work place was his income stream.
Nevertheless, why do some people choose not to embrace their work and skill set once they set foot over the door?
The Robert Owen Strategy
Our industrial forefathers were in most cases exceptional. These pioneers had it right. The philosophies and influences of these employment strategists were ahead of their time and much of their practices are in the work place today regards employee engagement. We just don’t know it. Robert Owen was one of these early pioneers. He devised the mantra of the eight hour day.
Known today as simply the 3/8ths law.
It should be noted though there are two sides to the 3/8ths law.
- Issues in my social life are effecting my life and sleep and thus affects my work.
- My skills are utilised in my social life but I turn them off in the 8 hours work period.
Invariably if a member of your staff is not performing the odds are the social element of their life is not functioning. Sure, some play office politics purely to survive, but in my experience it is a reflection of what happens when they leave each day and begin the social period. As a leader and manager you can only control what’s happening in the workplace. The real essence of this is how to spot the social issues. Its not always work related issues that makes a member of staff complain vigorously about it to the point of a shouting match. So how do you spot it?
Columbo and the Case of Employee Engagement
The best Managing Director I ever worked for could spot an issue with an employee instantly. His method? Each morning he would literally go from person to person, dept to dept and shake each persons hand. No matter where you were in the scale of the business this was done every single day. From that initial handshake a brief conversation would take place and over a measured period he could assess if there was an issue. Simple, but brilliantly effective. He was a detective in his approach. His employee performance radar was always on.
So what about that colleague who has the skills and choses not to use it. What is turning them off everyday? Invariably, it may come down to the fact they have been working in the business for years. They have totally forgotten the real reason for their existence other than survival. They long for Friday afternoons and hate Sunday night. The warning signs are:
- No promotion over the years
- Lack of appraisals
- Never considered for project work
- Badly managed in the past
- No accountability and responsibility
- Vocally negative
- Literal 9 to 5 employees
I managed a customer service team who would start work at 8.30am each morning. The employee performance was lacklustre. Why? At 8.25am some of the team were still sat in the carpark delaying clocking in to the last minute. That told me everything about the culture, the individuals and how they were being managed.
A Supervisor I employed would spend each morning on the toilet for 45 mins. He was betting on his phone and catching up on the sports news whilst his staff would be working flat out at 6am in the morning. His gambling addiction was well known. His focus was poor and his mistakes costly.
They may as well be left in the corner to see out there time. The turn round phase is hard. Sometimes you just have to look at releasing the employee or help them to move out of the your department or team. But first, assess. Grade your team by a scale process. Arrange an appraisal meeting to discuss their career and employee performance. What are there aspirations? Where do they see themselves in 2 years? If the employee has been with the business over 20 years don’t be surprised if they are just seeing out there time – hard to accept but this is just a blatant fact. Then you have a decision to make. Do they stay or do they go? Ultimately, its your business, dept, team and you will be held accountable.
Robert Owen knew this. To get the best for your business you need to get the best from your team and for your team.
Trust you gut feel. Employee performance is key if you want to succeed.
As Columbo would say….”just one more thing”…..