Written by Erica Bassford, Head of Aspire, LI Europe Ltd

Engagement.

It’s a word that gets used frequently, but what does it really mean?

If you have ever put your child through school exams you will probably be able to relate to my current situation. Like me, you probably experienced the step up in homework, the constant need to encourage your child to increase their vocabulary through reading, and then the inevitable requests for help. It can be time-consuming, draining and quite often, the source of tension, especially when asked questions you aren’t sure how to answer. I often find myself wondering how we survived before Google!

Yesterday, however, I was feeling quite smug when asked the question, ‘what exactly does engagement mean mum?’

I know something about this subject considering I’ve spent years working with leaders to increase the engagement of their teams. All I needed to do was put it in terms my nine-year-old son would understand.

My son announced that he’d found four definitions; a formal agreement to get married; an arrangement to do something or go somewhere at a fixed time; a fight or battle between armed forces; and the process of encouraging people to be interested in the work of an organisation. With such a range of definitions, he was left flummoxed.

I quickly dealt with the first three definitions, giving examples that he might relate to, but I pondered on the last definition: ‘The process of encouraging people to be interested in the work of an organisation’.

This definition is most aligned to my thinking within business, yet it falls somewhat short of my interpretation. For me, engagement means much more than simply being interested – it means people really apply discretionary effort and actively work to deliver improvement. To achieve that takes much more than simply encouraging people. It requires leadership, delegated freedom and above all, making sure employees feel involved and listened to.

I gave some real-life examples and shared some of the techniques that I use when training and mentoring managers in engagement, including The Tannenbaum and Schmidt continuum of leadership and delegated freedom. My son, for once, seemed genuinely engaged.

‘So, you’re trying to get me engaged in my work,’ he declared. ‘You want me to put in more effort because I want to make a difference, not because you tell me to?’

Eureka! Not only has he understood the definition, he now understands why me asking him to do his homework isn’t enough. He has to be engaged to get the benefit. Although, I guess discretionary might be the next definition I have to explain!

If you’re struggling with more than just the definition of engagement, by all means get in touch. It is an art rather than a science but it’s easier to travel the journey together.

Written by Nathanial Marshall, Practitioner at LI Europe.

One of the most common questions we come across is “How do we engage our workforce”? 

Many companies try to measure how engaged people are but often overcomplicate the surveys.

They create a vast array of questions among many categories which results in a large amount of convoluted feedback. How easy is it to then analyse this feedback? How often does that feedback actually get translated into activity that makes a demonstrable difference to engagement? Or do the actions end up as the most generic of activities that will do almost nothing to meet a specific individual’s needs?

One of the simplest yet most effective surveys I came across was reading the book “First, Break all the Rules” by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman.

Early in the book, they detail a simple survey which later became known as the Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey. They surveyed 105,000 people amongst 2500 business units within 24 companies.

The following 12 questions were asked and scored 1 to 5 on “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree” respectively.

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work? 
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. Do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last 7 days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?  
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages my development? 
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work? 
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last 6 months, has someone talked to me about my progress? 
  12. This last year, have I had the opportunity at work to learn and grow? 

Gallup completed a significant analysis of their findings and found two key results.

The first key finding probably wasn’t surprising, but was nonetheless, important.  Employees who responded more positively to the questions also worked in business units with higher levels of productivity, profit, retention and customer service. In essence, more engaged employees mean better business performance.

Further analysis also showed that employees rated the questions differently depending on their department rather than the overall company.  The opinions to the 12 questions depended more on the employee’s immediate manager than the overall policies and procedures of the company.

It goes to show how every single line manager and their ability to engage with their team is the key driver of engagement within a business and thus directly linked to performance.

How engaged are your employees? Could you be doing more to support them in the workplace? Do you have effective systems in place for managing performance and developing your team?

LI Europe has created The Ambassador’s Academy, (TAA). A monthly forum for ambitious manufacturing operations professionals concerned with, amongst other issues, engaging their workforce.  The peer-to-peer format allows like-minded individuals to discuss best practice and how to deliver improvements within their workplace.

TAA membership isn’t open to everyone.  Members must be ambitious and have something valuable to add to the group. To find out more about TAA member visit the LI Europe web page at www.laurasinternational.com/news/ambassadors-academy-taa/

Our last blog discussed the 3 ingredients that keep staff successfully engaged in manufacturing improvement programmes – Inclination, Ability & Time

The level of success however comes down to your Front Line Management team’s ability to take these raw ingredients and develop skilled and ‘switched on’ operators.  All too often, highly skilled individuals are promoted to Front Line Management positions without the necessary training experience, and with little support or coaching in their new role.

That’s why we’ve developed the acclaimed Aspire programme, designed to help Front Line Managers (FLMs) develop the skills required to manage people effectively.

 Here are some of our top tips for FLMs that are implementing Improvement Projects:

  1. See-Try-Do – To relieve the stress of training new initiatives for the first time, we recommend the ‘See-Try-Do’ approach which examines the training subject from a range of viewpoints to consider what questions could be asked and where confusion could arise.
  1. Tackle Conflict Head-on – FLMs often avoid meeting environments because managers are apprehensive about conflict; but without conflict, improvement doesn’t happen.  Coaching will give FLMs the confidence to address conflict safely and manage it through to a positive resolution.
  1. Supercharge Meetings – FLMs that run effective meetings have better track records of implementing successful Improvement Programmes.  Our coaching covers preparation, meeting etiquette and follow up, with top tips such as: hold meetings standing up to increase the energy in the room, value the input of each delegate, and remember the magic formula (70% agreement = 100% commitment for decisions)RACI Matrix.
  1. Use a RACI Matrix – Having clear and unequivocal roles for everyone is fundamental to getting actions done quickly and projects completed efficiently.  A RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) matrix is a very useful tool for ensuring FLMs have assigned and clearly communicated ownership of actions.
  1. Thank with a Reason – As simple as it sounds, saying ‘thank you’ and contextualising the gratitude with a reason, is an effective management principle.  Our Aspire coaching programmes are designed to help FLMs excel in their roles by applying easy to acquire, practical management tools to their day-to-day activities.

Get in touch to see how our Aspire Programme could help your FLMs engage their teams and excel in their roles.

 

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The pressure to improve factory margins is on, and often during early periods of economic recovery inflationary pressures return with abundance, and the small margins that many factories operate on can be wiped out. So improving fast is the order of the day, but what is the recipe for success?

Well, we’ve long known that change of any sort requires three ingredients – Inclination, Ability, and Time.  In fact, with sufficient of these, anything is possible – you can even go to the moon – literally.  But what does that mean for a factory?

If we start with inclination, then of course this stems from leadership and how leaders behave.  But is this enough?  It is no good just the senior leadership desiring to change and improve – the ”will’ has to be cascaded throughout the entire organization, and that takes strong management processes.

Next, we need both the ‘know-how’ to improve and the ‘know-what’ – the ability – to change.  The ‘know-how’ is all about having the right tools – Continuous Improvement (CI) tools come in many flavours, but being able to choose the right tool for the right situation is key.  The ‘know-what’ is about having the right KPI’s and measurement systems in place that tell you what the biggest losses to the business are, and point you in the right direction so that you can go and see the problems, and hence apply one of those tools to do something about it.

The final ingredient is time – because it’s no good having everyone in a business all enthusiastic to improve, kitted out with the right information and tools, and then keeping everyone busy at the coal-face, and never giving them an opportunity to do improvement.  And it’s not about appointing one or two people into improvement roles (although a champion is important!).

It’s a rare business these days that can afford extra resource – so it’s about making more of the people you already have – and doing that is called “engagement”.

So, to keep ahead of the competition, make sure that you’ve got all the ingredients for success in place.  For a free 1-day consultation to determine your health towards sustainable improvement, drop us a line.

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