Engagement: Getting Over the “Them versus Us” Mentality

By Pat HeydlauffPat Heydlauff

Maximizing the productivity of workforce talent is the greatest leadership challenge in today’s marketplace. Increased efficiency and productivity means increasing razor-thin profitability. The answer lies in connecting the communication dots by tying workforce productivity to the company’s performance, but how?

The thought process of “them versus us” is the root cause of this challenge and also where you begin to find the solution. Those who seek success without regard to relational costs to the workforce may succeed at first but will lose in the long run. Focus must be placed on what brings leadership and the workforce together, not what creates a chasm of distrust, disharmony and disregard for everyone, including the company itself.

Engaged Leadership Improves Performance: Leadership’s primary focus should be on improving their effectiveness in engaging their workforce.  The result: the more engaged employees are, the more invested they are in the outcome, which means improved organizational performance and increased profitability. When you tie workforce productivity to company performance everyone wins.

A recent Harvard Business Review Study “Connecting Workforce Analytics to Better Business Results,” rated productivity flexibility, collaboration and engagement as the most important workforce attributes, noting that engagement is key. The human resources director of one of their European study participants stated, “At the end of the day, the performance of our staff can mean more money or not.”

Workforce Planning: The study further stated that the biggest difference between organizational failure and success is having a formal approach to workforce planning and optimization. While there are many considerations when developing a plan, it should include the following elements.

Focus on the outcome. In order to maximize workforce productivity and organizational performance, the plan must be developed with focus placed on the desired outcome. The desired outcome must come first and must be measurable. Leadership from all areas of the organization, whether directly impacted or not, should be involved in this step. What one department leader might believe is the desired outcome might conflict with another leader’s ongoing operations or size of the workforce. Get all of the negatives out on the table as well as the positives. Then the outcome must also be supported 100 percent by the team. Inside sabotage will easily create unnecessary slowdowns and distractions.

Sometimes the “how” will also be developed in this step although the likelihood for greatest success will happen if it is developed in the next step.

Connect productivity to organizational outcomes. Communicate, communicate, communicate! Now it is leadership’s mandate to communicate not only the new desired outcome but why it is important to the workforce, how the new outcome will improve the performance of company – and in turn, how this benefits the workforce. This is the step that is critical for tying workforce performance to the organizational outcome. This type of communication must be circular or orbital in nature. It cannot be a one-way street. Leadership must have the workforce play back their understanding of the outcome and how it benefits both them and the company. When you get this step right, everything else will go smoothly.

Once the orbital flow of communication has effectively been implemented, proceed with creating the “how” by involving everyone on each team in the process. This is where the best innovations are given life. This is also the step that will provide the best employee buy-in. Be sure the “how” step includes measurable results.

Develop programs to enhance effectiveness. Next it is time for the original leadership team to reconvene and determine what training and new skills might be required by the workforce to enhance the success of the outcome. Some evaluation should also be done at this stage to determine if certain employees need to be mentored for future leadership needs. Develop the programs necessary to nurture future leaders and the upgrade the skills of the workforce. That is part of the benefits for the workforce and needs to be effectively communicated once the decision is made.

The success of this plan is determined by how well you communicate and engage your workforce. Productivity is not based on a “them versus us” mentality, but rather a more productive and profitable “we.”

Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.

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