Over the past 25 years, we’ve worked with clients around the world by supporting and / or leading Lean initiatives. If there’s any major “lesson learned” we’ve taken away, it’s that employee engagement is critical to success. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a magic potion that could be consumed throughout an enterprise to solve problems or improve efficiencies? Unfortunately, it will never be that simple. The rate, degree and level of change for Continuous Improvement endeavors hinges on people.
Within any transformation journey, employees must be empowered and engaged. Improvement happens in the field, on the factory floor, and within the office one employee at a time. When effective leadership support is in place, employees are more likely to embrace change. Without it… Not so much. There must be concentrated focus on active engagement ― connecting employees to the work they control.
It’s well known that as employee engagement increases, so too does organizational performance. So what are the top, most proven methods for increasing employee engagement? Integro Leadership Institute President Keith Ayers recently identified five leadership skills that are most effective.
#1 Build Trust
Trust is an essential ingredient in increasing engagement. The first thing leaders need to know about building trust is that it does not happen just because you are trustworthy. People do not know how trustworthy you are until you demonstrate it by using trust building behaviors and the most important of these behaviors is to trust others. We build trust by trusting others. This requires a basic belief in people, a belief that people are essentially trustworthy. After all, if you have untrustworthy employees, why did you hire them and why are they still there?
The relationship between the employee and his or her immediate manager is a critical factor in how engaged the employee will be. We have to get away from the idea that Managers cannot mentor the people who report to them. Employees need feedback; they need to know how they are performing regularly ― not just once a year at review time. They must be able to discuss their needs for growth and development with a Manager who cares about them. Effective leaders need to give and receive feedback — to coach and counsel employees in a way that increases engagement and commitment.
Whether employees feel like an insider or an outsider also impacts their level of engagement. Effective leaders know that everyone on their team has strengths the team needs, and they know how to get the best out of each person regardless of their ethnic background, gender, age or sexual orientation. They understand that people with different personal values can work together effectively when they commit to the same values about trustworthiness and standards of work performance.
Engaged employees feel aligned with their organization’s Purpose, Values and Vision. Their work is meaningful to them because their leader helps them see the connection between what they do and the success of the organization. The effective leader also understands that gaining their team’s commitment to the organization’s values increases the team’s performance standards as well as their engagement.
#5 Team Development
Effective leaders understand the potential for significant increases in performance through high performing teams. They make sure that all team members understand the strengths they and other team members bring to the team and work at developing a process that capitalizes on all of these strengths. The leader’s focus is on developing the leadership potential of each team member and ultimately implementing a shared leadership approach to continuously improve performance that is owned by the team.
Each of the skills above are needed to fully engage employees. In fact, engagement and subsequent results are diminished if any of them are missing. At Kaufman Global, our implementation approach is focused on linking leaders and employees to change initiatives by providing a structure within which the tools of Continuous Improvement are consistently applied. By applying Lean Daily Management System ® (LDMS ®) and other methods, we generate engagement and ownership. These practices also drive those critically important business results.
To learn more about how to leverage LDMS to improve engagement — and, ultimately, sustainability — click here to download Kaufman Global’s white paper, “Leading Purposeful Change with the Lean Daily Management System.”
See also: Lean Daily Management Services Page.
See also: LDMS blog article.