March 15, 2020
Jacki HartOne of the best authors on team engagement is Patrick Lencioni. His books include: the Five Dysfunctions of a Team, The Ideal Team Player, Three Signs of a Lousy Job, and more. His writing is brilliant — and comes full circle. Some were written well-before we even knew what a Millennial was. Lencioni’s wisdom and advice couldn’t be more relevant if he’d written it last month. It’s about the human condition – and I believe the main disconnect lies in the ‘screen-time’ factor of our lives. We’ve forgotten how to connect and value others in a sincere way, let alone at work where there are targets and deadlines.

Last month I ran a full-day workshop on “Working Together” at Ottawa’s GreenTrade Expo. I also spoke about Employee Engagement — a topic on the minds of many business managers who are looking ahead to a busy spring season — and spending lots of energy trying to become better employers, recruiters and career providers.

So, why do so many company managers struggle with finding, engaging and keeping great team players? I think it boils down to a few key issues, all of which have roots in the generation gap of preferences and communication styles that represent the average company demographic.

Everyone wants to know their efforts make an impact, and that they’re valued and appreciated. It’s important for everyone to know what they’re supposed to be doing, what they need to know/learn, when they’ll learn it, and how. This is pretty tough to do if there’s a lack of clarity on what’s expected and how performance will be measured.

To be honest, most employers I know (myself included for many years) really suck at being clear on job responsibilities, desired results and providing constant feedback. Now more than ever, it’s crucial. Our younger employees just won’t cope well without clarity. They’re digital natives. Information has never been inaccessible to them until they hit the workforce. Younger staff (under 25), leave school where they’ve had structured learning and regular feedback (report cards, test scores, essay/project grades) and jump into the workforce where they are left to fend for themselves and find their own way. They end up disengaged, feeling undervalued and it then shows in their work.

Here are five key things that may be happening in your business that could result in disengaged employees that are eluding you:

They’re in the wrong position and have been unintentionally set up to fail.
With it becoming increasingly challenging to fill various positions, it’s tempting to put the best person you can find (not necessarily the properly-trained or most experienced person) into a vacant position. Maybe you’ve taken an employee and promoted them once, or twice… until they reach the level of their own incompetence – it’s called the Peter Principle, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

They feel like just a warm body or a commodity.
In his book, Leaders Eat Last One, Simon Sinek says, “Money is a commodity to be managed to help grow your people, not the other way around.” By this he means you can no longer treat front line or junior employees like worker bees (or worse) who are expendable. If you expect to make profit off of the backs of your underpaid employees, you’re going to have a revolving door in the HR department. You need to invest in your people, grow their skills, give them hope, lift them up, and great results will follow. They will appreciate being appreciated. They will step up and engage.

Their work has no meaning to them.
Everyone needs to feel proud, every day. When you set people to tasks without them having the big picture or an understanding of what part their own effort will play in the overall success, they’ll feel useless and leave. Or they may only show up when they feel like it. You give them no hope, and no relevance.

They don’t feel valued or safe to learn.
If staff is intimidated, embarrassed or wrong when they ask questions, you might as well say good-bye. If they have a poor trainer (impatient, condescending, flippant) then they’ll be poorly trained. This leads to being discouraged, feeling dumb and inadequate. Who would stick around for that?

There is no path to personal success.
Again, it’s about creating hope. This starts with a living wage. Not what you think that should be, but what they need it to be. They’ll ask themselves daily, “Why should I stay? Will I succeed here? What’s in it for me?” If your hiring, onboarding and training system leaves them unable to answer these questions, then sooner or later, they’ll leave.

Take a look at these five factors and think about them one by one. Ask your team what they experience. Does any of this take place without (or with) you realizing it? Can you engage your team to help design a better system for information sharing, feedback, job position clarity, career options and continuous improvement? What would be different if you had all of five of these banished from your company? I think you’d have a rockstar team and I hope that you agree.

Owners and managers of Landscape Ontario members can join the Peer to Peer Network for free. Email
Jacki Hart CLM
Prosperity Partners Program Manager