Each company has a range of employees from those who are very vocal, outspoken, and those who may shy away and not speak up as much if something is wrong or bothering them. As a manager, we make the mistake of assuming the quieter employees are content with their jobs. These overlooked individuals are often the core of your business, the ones who really produce and the stabilizing force in your company. Yet because they seldom speak out about their work, they can be forgotten. These are the same people who resign from their jobs abruptly and without any reasonable explanation whatsoever.
In a recent Business Journal article “How to Tackle U.S. Employees’ Stagnating Engagement,” data from a Gallup Poll showed that only 30% of the American workforce feels motivated to excel at their jobs and an astounding 18% of the workforce has actively disengaged. The leading theory is that front-line employees have the perception that business owners don’t care about them and that owners only focus on profits. And there we have the problem… and the opportunity
Throughout the remainder of the summer I encourage you to take some time and spend it talking with your “less vocal” staff members. My guess is you will be surprised what you hear once you get them to talk. I’m guessing you will discover one of two things (and then you have the responsibility to deal with what you’ve discovered).
You might hear some great ideas on improving the services and processes they are directly involved in, and come away with a new appreciation of what they do for the company. In addition, you might hear that they’ve actually mentioned these ideas before, but because of the organizational or managerial structure, their ideas may have never risen to the surface. Most likely you will become frustrated in these employees and their managers for not bringing forward these ideas until now.
- What To Do: The way you react and handle this is crucial – don’t shoot the messenger or be quick to push the blame. This type of breakdown is generally traced back to company culture which quite possibly falls back in your lap. Remember, employee engagement and motivation is a two-way street. Create a process and method for more open communication that spans the entire organization. Acknowledge and give praise for great ideas regardless of who provided them.
On the other hand, you might hear that some employees have completely disengaged from their job and have unplugged from company communications, self-improvement, promotional consideration, etc. People can get lost in their jobs and go through the day-to-day motions. That behavior is often overlooked because they show up on time and put in the hours with no visible signs of a problem. The opportunity you have is to re-engage and recharge the ambition levels with these individuals and that can be a huge contributor to future success.
- What To Do: Find ways to reward and recognize those who go about their work in a steady and soft spoken manner before they shut down. Again, put in place a process and method for open communication. Help these individuals to know that they are a valuable member of the team. Consider minimizing current recognition programs that focus on the individual and prioritize more team goals and recognition that is inclusive of the quiet and steady employees.
At a minimum, please give some thought to what I’m suggesting – you might be surprised at what some of your employees have to say! – CW