Get Engaged

Miner wearing a hard hat

Let’s face it - the past 18 months were different. Prior to that time, the resources sector was experiencing a severe people shortage which was encouraging high employer engagement as companies tried to find smarter and more innovative ways to retain the staff they did have.

Then someone flicked a switch and we went from “day to night” in not much more than a few weeks!

Clearly, those people that had good jobs stopped shopping around for a new one and many were willing to take pay cuts. They quickly became more flexible to ensure that they were part of the group that kept their jobs as opposed to the ones who found themselves out on the street in an uncertain employment market.

Today things have changed quickly and employees are gaining in confidence and some of those that haven’t moved for some years are starting to put their toe in the water again.

To employers…

This need not be a bad thing as some turnover can be healthy and as always, great companies with great people and great projects, will always have a compelling human resource and career case to help them retain and recruit their best people.

Whatever your situation, it is now time to focus back on employee engagement.

A quick word of warning, experience tells us that slower moving companies WON’T do this until things get desperate again. By then of course, companies that are more forward thinking will have already moved strongly to attract and retain the best people.

Consistent with our policy of providing quality succinct messages, we first re-introduced this theme last year, initially in April 2009, when we said the supply/ demand equation in the candidate market was as balanced as it had been for some time, and represented a fantastic opportunity for forward thinking mining companies to attract some great new talent.

Further to that, in our last MPi News prior to Christmas, we briefly introduced the concept of employee/employer engagement. We talked about how as employers, it was important not to take the loyalty of your employees for granted and to avoid complacency. The downturn in metals prices and the economy generally might have kept your best people with you for the previous 18 months, but if you hadn’t already started, then late last year was a good time to re-focus back on building employee engagement, so as to retain these people when much better times did return.

With that in mind, we noticed a great article with some tips on the subject of “Engagement” that we’d like to share with our readers.

The article was based upon one spotted in a source we have been watching recently, The Gallup Management Journal,

The value of this topic comes to those who share the view that;

“The more engaged your employees are, the better results your organisation achieves.”

Gallup conducted research on the topic and produced two overriding findings that should be extremely valuable to guide your thinking if you are interested in increasing employee engagement levels:

1. Firstly, driving engagement by focusing on strengths is far more effective in boosting performance, than focusing solely on weaknesses.

That in itself might not be a revelation to some readers, but the second key finding was that ignoring employees completely (even if you had negative feedback that they should have been hearing) was an even worse strategy. Put another way:

2. No news, is NOT seen as good news!

The survey asked more than 1000 employees a series of questions which enabled the respondents to be classified into 3 categories:

  1. Employers focused mostly on my strengths and positive characteristics.

  2. Employers focused mostly on my weaknesses or negative characteristics.

  3. Employers focused neither on my strengths nor weaknesses. These employees were classified as “ignored”.

The whole article can be accessed via the Gallup Management website but to summarise some of the findings:

  • 37% agreed that “my supervisor focuses on my strengths.”

  • 11% agreed that “my supervisor focuses on my weaknesses.”

  • 25% were ignored!

Further, the survey found that:

  • If an employer focused on strengths, the chance of the employee being actively disengaged was only 1:100.

  • Being overlooked (ignored) resulted in employees being 100% • (ie; TWO TIMES) more likely to be actively disengaged, compared to your manager focusing only on your weaknesses.

What this tells us is that:

Employees who are ignored feel like they don’t matter.

The best employees don’t want to be coddled, they want to matter. They want to be part of something greater than themselves to know that they contribute to that something. They want to be heard, but under no circumstances do they want to be ignored.

At times it will seem counterintuitive to focus on weaknesses rather than ignoring employees, but those employees’ likelihood of being engaged at work actually improve!

This seems to be because people prefer to get any feedback over no feedback at all – even if that feedback is criticism.

The bottom line:

A manager who ignores employees, is a manager who has no business being in that role. People bother them, people are the nuisance aspect of their job so they ignore them as much as possible. If you are the kind of boss who ignores your employees, you shouldn’t be a manager.

Henry Ford’s famous quote focuses our attention on this subject:

Why is it that every time I want a pair of hands, I get a human being as well?” Henry Ford.

The roots of these issues can be traced back to our progression from the Industrial Age into the Knowledge Age. Through this, employers have had to move from considering people as if they were little more than cogs in a much bigger machine, to the realisation that an individual’s knowledge and unique talents could bring value to an organisation.

The world (and business) has moved on of course, but some managers and organisations remain stuck in the past. People aren’t machines and trying to fix them by simply pointing out their faults and requiring them to get better, is not the best approach.

As the results above show, focusing on weaknesses alone is better than ignoring employees totally, however it still leaves 22% of your workforce actively disengaged. Having that many negative, hostile or miserable employees must surely limit what a manager – or an organisation – can achieve.

Makes perfect sense to us.

To read more visit The Gallup Management Journal,