Gallup has just released a major study which finds that successful engagement programs in organizations cascade down from an engaged executive committee and not from radiating middle managers or bubbling up from front-line employees.

Tags: engagement, executives, impact

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How different are the questions we ask of of executives from those we ask their employees in a survey? I would like to have 4 or 5 questions that will really make the executive think about his/her behavior and their contribution to the Engagement Success, you describe. Thanks for your contribution!
Eric - This is an interesting study and actually makes sense. It is a little bit like "walking the talk". If leaders don't "take their own medicine" or actively work on engagement if they are promoting it than the managers and front line employees will not. Here is what I wonder. If executives take over a company or merge with a company that has a strong engagement culture, will they change the company or will the company change them. I fear I know the answer, but wonder what others might think.
I think the weak link in the chain is the front line managers. No matter how engaged the executives are, its the front line managers who have the most interactions with most employees. If they're not fostering engagement then it's not going to happen.
Scott - Managers are the lynchpin to any engagement initiative (or any large scale organization development initiative) occurring. However, without senior leader buy in it is hard to push that boulder up the mountain. I think that it needs to come from all levels. Its funny to me that we always try to pinpoint exactly the lever that will make engagement successful. It takes all levels of leaders and employees to make an engaged organization. We can't just focus on one we need to work on all....
Anil is correct. the employee-manager relationship is critical but organizational engagement will only come through executive commitment.
Thanks Eric. Here is the other thing I have been thinking about. Maybe our focus regarding engagement has been all wrong. Engagement means something very different to different levels in the organization. We should probably start to create our messages and tools to target those various levels.
Eric this is good stuff and a very clear confirmation for those of us who have worked in this field a long time. Of course mid-level managers have to implement but a committed and eagle-eyed top executive team knows how to make sure that everyone walks the talk. That is what leadership is all about, that is one of their main jobs: to envision, communicate, inspire, encourage and support a people-oriented culture which will lead to the enormous benefits of engagement and high morale. If there are individuals who don't buy in, well my best clients have always had zero-tolerance for violations of the core cultural values, no matter how well that person "performs" in other areas (like sales). A high level of engagement is something worth fighting to maintain and has far greater value to the organization than any individual.

Some threads here on the EEN have suggested that it should all come from below, bubble up, as you say. This is, as your study confirms, nonsense.

As for company cultures changing with a merger, unfortunately it happens all the time: Nextel was a fabulous smaller telecom company with a great customer oriented culture, and of course Sprint screwed it all up.

My favorite phrase for whether top management is the key to all this is: "fish rot from the head down".

thanks for this valuable info and best to you

Some of the questions I've asked C-level executives are:
1. How well do your employees (staff) understand how they can help increase your company’s bottom line?
2. How well do you connect one-on-one with your team members?
3. What benefits do you believe are derived from employee engagement?
4. How is the economy impacting employee engagement?

I have 6 or 7 questions total .... I will share the results I get from my survey - it's interesting to see (hear) their reactions).
Anything I should add or clarify? Thanks for your input.

Before the engagement study even starts, I always like to make sure that the executives are on board and have thought about a few things:
1. Why is it important to them that their workforce is engaged (and the answer - to have a more engaged workforce is not acceptable)?
2. How will they show their support of the engagement study/initiative?
3. What bottom line measures do they want to tie to engagement? Most HR folks I work with are confused by linking business measures to engagement. But, there needs to be a link between engagement and organizational productivity/profit in order for it to be "real" to many executives.
It is easy to point the finger at top management to blame them for the failure of the workforce to engage.
By now top management know full well that an engaged workforce will increase performance, reduce costs and reduce churn.
If they knew how to create an engaged workforce you can be sure they would already be doing it, but they don't so what use is there in blaming them for failure.

Almost every management initiative starts with the premise that if top management support it then it will work.

If a parent tells a teenager to clean their room we all know that the room will not be cleaned, not because the teenager enjoys living in a dirty room but because, in common with almost every human being on this planet, teenagers hate being told what to do.

In exactly the same way, when management decide what they want to happen the first thing they look for is a lever that is long enough to force the workforce to do what they want.
When that fails they assume that it was because the lever was not long enough, so they look for a bigger lever, without realising that it is not the length of the lever that is the problem, it is the use of the lever itself.

The only people in an organisation who know what they need to engage are the workforce.
The reason they are not engaged is because they do not get what they need.
The job of the implementer is to give the workforce what they need to engage.
When the workforce engage their performance becomes astonishing.
When that happens their manager has to ask the implementer, "How did you do that?"
The implementer then coachs the manager in the behaviour he needs to adopt to support the engaged workforce.

The top management role is simply to start the ball rolling and they do that because they know that there is a huge ROI waiting for them.
To start an implementation is simply a business decision for the top manager.

If that top manager then tries to become involved in influencing the choices of his workforce his desire to influence will make it very difficult for his workforce to engage.

Gallup are good at producing surveys but engagement is not about surveys.

Engagement is about changing the way that the workforce feel about what they do.

As the advert says, if you have a problem with your plumbing do you ask a butcher for advice?

Or do you call a plumber?

Peter A Hunter
Peter -

Thank you for your comments. I agree that top management can't try to sway employees to a particular point of view or action on purpose. Doing that will only push people away. However, they have to be active in the change that they are seeking. In other words they have to walk the walk.

Using your analogy, if a parent wants a teenager to stop smoking but takes no action to do so themselves they will be viewed as a hypocrite. Although I completely agree that top management can't do everything, they must participate. It can't be "do as I say, not as I do".

The rationale for doing a survey has to be to forward the business results. But, leaders have to be thoughtful that their folks are watching them. I liken it to the debates we have in the States about government spending. On the one hand politicians talk about sound fiscal judgement and then neither party works on the tough issues. It is hard to take their platitudes and pontification seriously. I worked with a client that raved about how important engagement was. She could not have been a more ardent supporter. But when it came time to do some of the work with her direct reports, she refused. That in and of itself is not so bad, in my opinion. She was the boss and entitled to make that decision. However, when folks saw she was taking no action it let the air out of the effort. Her words rang hollow to the organization.

I, personally, would not call a butcher for advice about plumbing. But, as much as I hate to say it, Gallup did a lot of groundbreaking work on engagement. Let's not kill the messenger here. I'm not a Gallup fan (as I used to work there - emphasizing the used to part). But, the fundamentals of their research are sound. Its just another arrow in our quiver when we talk about helping client really have high impact engagement initiatives. The top managers can't just say they are on board. They have to take action on what they need to work on too.

Anil Saxena
When the workforce become engaged they cease to care about what Senior Management are doing because part of that feeling of engagement is because the workforce take control of their own environment.

The only coaching that the Senior Management need, when they ask for it, is to help them to understand that their walking the talk, etc, actually compromises the ability of the workforce to engage.
Senior Management don't need to do anything to engage the workforce they just need help to find out what they were doing that prevented the workforce from engaging, then they stop doing it.

The workforce engage because it is what they want to do, not because they are following the example of someone else.

Peter A Hunter



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