The idea of dealing with something as neatly bounded as a ‘business strategy’ certainly has its obvious attractions. Alas, strategies don’t achieve results; people do! No strategy can work unless the organization has the right people, with the right skills, in the right roles, motivated in the right way, and supported by the right leaders.
Especially today, when lean and mean organizations are scrambling to do more with less and the ever-dynamic modern organization makes it difficult to specify roles and responsibilities; an engaged workforce is the best source of competitive advantage. Not only do companies with high levels of employee engagement show 40 per cent less turnover than their peers, Hay Group research has also proved that highly engaged employees are 10 per cent more likely to exceed performance expectations. Moreover, engaged employees display higher levels of the two types of commitment: affective commitment (their attachment to the organization) and continuance commitment (their desire to remain a part of it); thus making them more likely to go above and beyond formal job requirements and enabling greater levels of productivity.
While this idea has a certain appeal to it, we still find that workplace productivity is still haunted by a silent killer – employee frustration. Employees can be frustrated for various reasons: inadequate resources to get the job done, a manager who does not listen, or an unsupportive work environment. These factors frustrate even the most motivated of employees, who although want to work simply cannot as they are not enabled for it!
Our research has found that Employee Enablement is the missing piece to the engagement story. Employees who are engaged but not enabled to be able to do their jobs represent a lost opportunity for organizations; constituting about 20 per cent or more of the total workforce. As you will appreciate, this is a bit of an undertaking that makes enablement an urgent prerogative.
So, how can you stop your best people from walking? The first, and foundational step, is to develop systems that provide better support for employees’ success. There should be no barriers for employees to get their jobs done, including bad business practices such as duplication of efforts. Operating efficiency concerns are particularly important in high-workload environments.
Second, putting the right people in the right roles will ensure that all roles are optimized. In deploying people to roles, manages must take into account the requirements of the job as we well as the employee’s ability to meet them. Wrong employees placed in the wrong roles can quickly become disillusioned and unproductive.
Finally, employee enablement requires that the organizational leaders must be equipped with the right competencies to create a positive work climate, thereby engaging their teams. Our research shows that business results can vary by as much as 30 per cent purely due to the differences in the work climate created by the team managers.
If organizations succeed in rolling out these measures, I am confident they will reap the rewards of a highly engaged workforce, where employees are willing to put in discretionary effort, which the organization has not asked of them, to make the organization a further success. And in today’s stormy economic conditions, this is perhaps the most sustainable source of competitive advantage.