Believe it or not, there are managers who care. Managers in the workplace who want to do a great job. Managers who want to invest in employees and be a hero for the company. What these managers need to meet those objectives is exhausting.
They need to be diligent and focused. They need to remain positive when it's tough to do so. They need to be able to handle change well and be productive in every situation, whether good or bad. Attitude is crucial and skills need to be varied and high. This manager has to believe in what he or she is leading, not just managing.
The one component that they cannot manufacture is the employee. There need to be employees who are eager to work, to excel and to learn. Sounds easy, right? Towers Watson has recently done a study showing that almost two-thirds of employees are not fully engaged in their work. A big part of the reasoning behind these results has to do with those employees surveyed doing more with less. The five to ten year old theme of having employees "multi-task" has gotten old. Job enlargement and job enrichment tactics have been exposed as cover for "we're not hiring anyone else." They no longer want to hear: "Just hang on until the economy picks up" or "The recession is almost over, be patient." The concept of waiting five years or more for something is not easy nor is it popular in the US (good or bad, it isn't).
So what happens with these employees left to work for a manager? They function, but that's it. The spark is gone for two-thirds of them. Now, the manager, seeing what is before him/her, also begins to experience a waning. All of the enthusiasm he/she begins with is eaten up by merely keeping people moderately productive. Happiness is desired, but a chore to create. And engagement strategies are still on vision boards hanging in the manger's office.
What my experience has shown me is that the simple task of asking works wonders. Managers, are you asking your employees how they are doing? I know that there may be complaints, but your head needs to come out of the sand. Ignoring the issues makes them fester and spread to others. Just because you know (or think you know) what your employees will say doesn't mean that they know you know. Ask them.
And then ask them what ideas they have for improvement. Yes, ask them. Ask them how they would fix an issue, create better processes or enhance innovation strategies. Seek out their opinion, but be clear that all of the ideas may not be able to be implemented. Employees understand that there may be other issues at hand that they know little about or that the cost of some options may not be doable at the time. What's more important is that the employees know that they are being asked.
But wait, there's more. What about the employees? Employees, are you asking your manager how you can be more involved? I know there may be frustration at all the employees have been doing to date, but perhaps the conversation can move towards skill improvements and new learning objectives. Your asking is not to be rude, insulting or full of attitude (you know what I mean by attitude. I have a teenager and a tween in my house...I know attitude). Ask for the sake of knowing and growing.
What if you, as an employee, are not interested in your job? Well, that is a different conversation, but it's one that you must have. You want to be productive and useful. If you're part of the two-thirds, then only you can change that. Find your motivation. Recapture that joy for the company, if you can.
Asking seems like such a simple strategy, but many times, the simplest is the most effective. Regardless of the side of the employment relationship you are on, you can ask for clarity, for involvement and for improvement. The better the company does, the more likely you'll have a job. It's to everyone's benefit to ask and to act.
It's a new year. Make a decision to just ask.