There are many statistics on the level of disengagement in organisations, and it’s low; really low. According to Gallup, 70% of American workers are not engaged. Disengaged staff cost organisations, but also impact in more subtle ways:
“78% of engaged employees would recommend their company’s products or services, against 13% of the disengaged.”
“70% of engaged employees indicate they have a good understanding of how to meet customer needs; only 17% of non-engaged employees say the same.”
The impact of employee engagement is no longer questioned. Most large corporates run a regular survey to check the engagement temperature of their employees, with the intention of identifying the problems, overcoming them and hoping that the scores improve next time.
How healthy is your organisation going to be this year? Will it be growing or will it struggle to survive? The future is uncertain; that’s good for bookmakers and fortune-tellers, but not good if you are trying to plan for the future.
In my experience, all organisations regularly review their “key numbers”, normally revenue and cost, however, those numbers are in the past, there’s no ability to change what’s happened (legally). What will those numbers be for this month? At best it is intelligent guessing, i.e., forecasting.
Managing your business by your past performance is like driving a car by only looking in the rear-view mirror. You can see what’s happened, but you can only guess what is going to happen, and those guesses are based on what the road looked like previously as you can’t see what’s coming up. The only action left is to hope you guess right and fix the damage when you don’t.
But you can begin to predict the future health of your organisation; there is a way to see into the future. And you already have this capability in your organisation; let me explain…
Change is hard as we humans don’t like change. However, in organisations, there is another reason why change is so hard, and it’s called Policy.
Let me give you an example of Policy in action. I was recently working with a client who was running an idea challenge in their company. The CEO and the board were sponsoring the challenge and expecting great things. To launch the challenge, the CEO emailed every employee to ask them to get involved by submitting their ideas as they ideas were needed urgently. Good so far.
Innovation initiatives have a habit of causing excitement and expectation; the organisation is trying something different and wanting to do new things. Senior management are anticipating the brand new shiny ideas, and front-line employees can’t wait to be rid of their daily frustrations. So what could go wrong?
However, in all this excitement, there’s a group that is usually neglected in the engagement strategy – the middle managers. Often it’s assumed that these managers will support all the company initiatives. It’s their role to toe the line and make sure others do. They’ll buy in surely?
Actually, they don’t.
The role of a middle manager is to maintain the status quo and ensure that set targets are met and the organisational cogs keep turning and working as expected. They are not needed to pursue flights of fancy, a.k.a. ideas, they are employed to keep order and manage resources.
And then they and their team are asked to innovate. What’s in it for the manager? If they are measured on meeting their current objectives, innovation will be seen as a distraction to the “real work” with no guaranteed rewards at the end.
So instead of ideas flowing freely through the organisation and being implemented as quick as you can blink, the ideas get stuck.
I want ideas; I’ll pay for them. It’s almost crude in it’s approach. Nobody likes to think that they can be bought for a certain price. However, when it comes to innovation, it is often the default.
Let me lay my cards on the table here; I believe using money as a motivator can be immensely destructive!
Innovation in an organisation is not so much an activity; it’s more of a journey. However, you don’t get to the journey’s end of innovation, as by its very nature, it continuously creates new horizons and new peaks to reach.
When you are on a journey, however, you want to know where you are and where you are going. It’s the same with the expedition of any innovation programme. It is difficult to know how you are doing and make comparisons, because most innovation programmes are new and different, and additionally, there is usually only one innovation programme in an organisation.
How can you tell if you are making headway in your innovation journey, or just heading very fast down a dead-end alley? How can you tell what you are doing well, and what needs to improve?
Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “If you do the same thing over and over again, don’t be surprised that you always get the same results.”
Guy Clapperton, senior uk journalist
Encouraging innovative thinking and behaviour
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