For all the statistics showing that employee engagement is really low and the surveys showing 2/3 of employees have the opportunity to improve their level of involvement, for all the studies about impacts for involving people from the motivational / ownership side of things to the impacts on innovation and creativity, I am thinking that believing that we can engage people in the workplace is simply wishful thinking.
My thoughts are anchored to this illustration:
A reality in organizations is that we cannot expect things to change if we do not do anything differently and I think that the average supervisor or manager is simply UNABLE to get the time to stop pulling and sit down with people.
A consultant friend said it this way:
We have a ton of anecdotal information capturing what supervisors actually do. This is far different from what supervisors “should” do theoretically. The reality in the workplace is that since 2008 supervisors have been charged with “supervising and doing task oriented staff work”. In other words, supervisors are now “working supervisors” doing tasks that staff would do except we don’t have a staff person or even a position on the books to place anyone. So supervisors are strapped to help complete the work of their unit and supervise, too.
That matches with my perception of reality. They are trapped with too much to do. They are simply not given the opportunity to have alignment and idea meetings with their direct reports, since everyone is measured continually on their production and there is simply not the time.
I think of it more like this:
If you have seen any statistics on all this, please add a comment. The old Mintzberg kinds of research on time and motion do not begin to capture the realities of the modern workplace. And all sorts of different data point to the fact that “productivity” has had continuous massive jumps while the numbers of people who would like to quit their current jobs is very high, including managers as well as workers.
I’ll quit with this little graphic I just created, based on my cartoon called, “Chain of Command“:
It would be most excellent if senior managers would understand that there is a lot of headroom for performance improvement if we can simply step back from the wagon a bit and look for and allow people to improve.
There is an old quote from the training literature that goes,
How long can we go lean and mean
before we become gaunt and dead?
The round wheels are already in the wagon. We need to look at our supervisors and really understand if they have the time and resources to ask for and implement ideas for workplace performance improvement. There would be a LOT of positive impacts throughout the organization, for sure.
I added a few more thoughts on this in another blog post so click on the image below:
And you can find more about our thinking on the bigger picture of employee involvement and engagement by clicking on this link to another article on my blog or by heading to my website,
For the FUN of It!
Dr. Scott Simmerman is a designer of team building games and organization improvement tools. Managing Partner of Performance Management Company since 1984, he is an experienced presenter and consultant.