Walking through the city the other day my mind was, as usual, wandering all over the place, not focused on anything much at all.
So when two people behind me started chatting to one another their conversation easily caught my attention. Not that I was eavesdropping on purpose mind you….just they were so loud I couldn’t help but hear every word.
What did I hear?
It seems they agreed that pretty much everyone and everything in their office was…well…rubbish.
It was, I realised, quite an ordinary conversation because on reflection, it sounded like every conversation I overhear in the city these days. In coffee shops, in lifts, waiting for trains…you name it. Everyone, apparently, is entirely ticked off with their workplace and everyone in it.
Walking, talking proof of employee disengagement, right there.
From negative to positive...
I don’t know if the particular conversation I heard that day was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. Maybe. But it got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be great if these conversations could be had in the workplace in a constructive way and lead to change for the better?
Impossible? We don’t think so.
As we are fond of saying, leading and managing teams is a tough gig. If your team members are wandering the streets having the sort of conversations we’re talking about, it’s an even tougher gig. But the fact is, most teams have pockets of discontent.
Think about it, though….discontent is different from disengagement. And allowed to “do its thing” a little discontent can actually be a positive for your business.
Discontent is a catalyst for change.
Without discontent your team can become complacent. And complacency is the enemy of progress toward your business purpose and vision.
It’s discontent that leads team members to suggest change in the business. In everything from your service offer and delivery through to the basics of process.
Disengagement on the other hand, happens when team members effectively switch off and lose interest in their jobs and your business. Actually, that’s not quite true….they have enough interest to walk the streets roundly criticising everything and everyone that comes to mind.
How do you avoid discontent morphing into disengagement?
The simple part of the answer is to listen.
Listen to what your team members are saying around the office - really listen. And if you’re not sure about the message contained in what’s being said, ask plenty of questions and listen again until you clearly understand the issues so you can begin to address them.
It’s important to observe the rule: you have two ears and one mouth….use them in proportion. It’s also important to encourage an environment where people feel ok about speaking up - where “fearless communication” is the norm.
We’ve written about this before - check it out.
The harder part of the answer is to make sure you’re consistently giving people the opportunity to provide feedback in a more formal way. Even harder is to commit to act on that feedback.
Establishing a simple engagement survey process in your business is a great way to do this. We’ve provided some “how to” tips here.
If you’re going to head down this path, you need to be committed to actively following up on the feedback you get.
Because “the business” is asking the questions, “the business” must be prepared to act. If it’s not and nothing much happens post-survey, then it can do more harm than good.
Does it work?
Recently I was doing some research into engagement levels around the world and amongst other things, found two seemingly conflicting reports.
One, showed over 80% of employees worldwide are disengaged at work. On the other hand another, from a different organisation showed some 64% of employees are engaged.
Simple. The first result came from employees from across the researcher's data base regardless of whether or not their employers ran engagement surveys.
The second result covered employees in businesses that did run surveys and had good follow up processes.
The stark contrast between the two results shows the impact surveys, and their follow up, can have.
It’s ok for your team members to be discontent with what’s going on in the business provided you can use it to bring about positive change.
It’s not ok when those team members roam the streets naming and shaming because you’ve chosen to ignore it.
Your team members chatting in the street?
If you're not sure, let's find out together.
We don't judge...we're in the business of objectivity. So why not give us a call or drop us an email so we can start the conversation?
We can't think of a single reason why you shouldn't!
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