Employee engagement as a two-way street

Categories: Blog, Business relationships, Communication, Company culture, Employee Engagement, Empowerment, Leadership, and Relationships.

With all the work we’ve done on employee engagement (studying it, analyzing it, helping companies increase it), we’re convinced that employee engagement is a two-way street. It’s not just the responsibility of the managers and leaders.  It’s the responsibility of the employees as well.

See, if you give only one person in a relationship the sole responsibility for that relationship, there’s an inherent and immediate imbalance that is not sustainable.

Employee engagement isn’t just communication and giving atta-boys and atta-girls. It’s much more than that.

Let me introduce our Collaborative Employee Engagement Model™.

At the center of the model is “Serve” – the employees are there to serve the needs of the company and customers, and the managers are there to serve the employees.  This may fly in the face of tradition as far as the roles of the managers, but, honestly, that’s what they’re in an organization to do – to manage.  If they have other duties (like sales, coding, product development, etc.), then when they are in their managerial duties, they should be serving, helping, leading, empowering (more on that in a minute) the employees.

Now let’s look at the left side of the model, the setting so to speak.  This is where each side (employees and managers) have a role to play.  On the managerial side, managers need to create a safe environment so that on the employee side, they can be conscious and intentional about the work they do.  If the environment isn’t safe, i.e. it’s filled with micromanaging, a culture of shame, toxic relationships, etc., then the employee is not free to do his or her best work.

Each side has a responsibility here.  If the manager creates that safe, supportive environment, then the employee has a responsibility to be aware of what’s expected of him, the goals of the company, how his role is an important cog in the wheel of the company… and then to perform to the best of his ability.

Let’s go to the right side of the model, with the communication element.  There are several employee engagement statistics that tout the importance of feedback, and we’re proponents of that as well.  The data doesn’t like: 98% of employees will fail to be engaged when managers give little or no feedback. So, feedback is a big yes.

Now let’s look at the other side of that two-way street, the employees.  Are employees communicating? Are they letting their supervisors and managers know about problems and challenges (before they blow up in their faces)? Do they feel safe to do so? (That goes back to the safe environment piece.)

It’s all well and good to say that it’s all up to the manager to give feedback, but communication itself is always a two-way street. Is that feedback falling on deaf ears or on eager ears?  Is the employee proactive, and therefore, manageable?

Finally, we have the middle of the model, which is where the action and tasks occur.  This is probably the clearest and most agreed-upon part of the model. 🙂  Every manager would say that they want their employees to take responsibilities for their position, their duties, and their actions. On the other side, employees say they just want the ability to do their jobs.

This is where the two-way street comes in…. In order for an employee to be able to her job, she must feel empowered to do so.  This means the manager CANNOT micromanage. Yes, we all have an idea of what ideal performance looks like in a particular area, but there will be no great performance or growth if the employee doesn’t feel she has room to maneuver, to make mistakes, to make choices, to motivate herself. 

Yes, it may all start with the manager creating the environment, empowering employees, and giving feedback…. but that’s why they’re managers, right?

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