By: Thomas Carson
3 Key Pieces of Feedback from Employees to Employer
Practical Guidance from Employees on Engaging Employees
Those of you who follow Sospes know that we are all in on the value of employee engagement, but then many companies, consultants and EHS vendors make that claim. There are many studies supporting the significant financial and operating value of engagement. One of the most-often quoted is a Gallup survey from 2019 that reported much better operating performance as measured by a series of specific metrics achieved by companies with engaged employees over companies with less engaged employees. The obvious conclusion is that employee engagement is a good thing. The rub is what does employee engagement mean and where can I get some.
We talk to a lot of managers and workers in a lot of companies, and employee engagement in one form or another comes up often in those conversations. Sometimes companies make the concept of engagement harder than it really is, and I get that – academics and consultants have been writing about engagement for 30 years. At a basic level, all of us as employees (or Team Members, Partners, Colleagues, or other descriptor of choice) want two things in our relationship with our organizations: we want to be valued and we want to be trusted. Put that way, it doesn’t sound so difficult, but as always, the devil is in the details, and in this case, in the cultural environment in which you operate. We accumulated this feedback from employees to their leaders that may provide useful insights:
- We employees want you to value us. Not just by paying us fairly, training us appropriately and keeping us out of obvious danger – we wouldn’t have taken the job in the first place if we didn’t think you weren’t doing these things. Many of us have been doing our jobs for a long time – we have good ideas for making our jobs safer, faster and better if you would just ask us. And we aren’t talking about the wooden suggestion box outside the plant managers’ office with the chain that used to have a pen attached, whose contents are opened once each quarter. If you would implement a systematic, timely way to invite all of us into the conversation for improving our workplace and demonstrate that you really take our input seriously with thoughtful feedback, we think you would be amazed at how many of us would participate. Will every input we provide be something you implement? Of course not – you will probably get some really dumb submissions. But if you provide coaching on what was useful and what was not practical, and why, we will get better, the inputs will be more actionable and most important, we will develop a culture of mutual respect and understanding.
- We want you to trust us. We get that we will make mistakes – everyone does. But if we can treat these as learning experiences to get better, taking the time to understand what really happened, we will stretch to improve and not move forward with resentment caused by being singled out for the humiliation of all-too-often public punishment. Occasionally we may create a real mess, but thanks to our systems and processes that we all work on together, that will be the rare exception. This doesn’t mean that we are trying to avoid accountability. Actually, we welcome the chance to be part of an environment where expectations are clear, and both the rewards and consequences are transparent. Trust us to do our jobs in this framework, knowing that when we had a part in creating our environment, we will be committed to making it work.
- We are not stupid. Even if we don’t say anything, we know the difference between a program that fosters genuine inclusion and a program that is just for show. We can see when our inputs are received, acknowledged, and acted upon as opposed to collected with a thank you and never heard from again. We don’t expect that you will implement every suggestion – it is the dialogue, the honest exchange of ideas, that is important and establishes our mutual trust and respect.
That is the employee point of view, to which I would add an additional comment. In my experience, everyone has something to contribute – we just can’t always know when that contribution may be most valuable. This is why we should all want to keep the communication doors open and our employees engaged.