WHAT DID NOAH, THE ORIGINAL SHIPBUILDER, KNOW ABOUT EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT AND PASSION?
Last week I delivered the keynote address at the annual Gulf States Shipbuilders Consortium conference in Pensacola, Florida. The audience was made up of shipyard owners (both large and small), HR and training professionals, talent recruiting firms and training development professionals. Many manufactured aircraft carriers and cruisers for the Navy. They asked me to address the topic of Employee Engagement and why it was essential within a manufacturing environment. I provided facts and details about why employee engagement is critical, such as improving revenue growth by 147%, that 73% of our US population is NOT ENGAGED and costing as much as $450 billion to our economy. Also, high levels of engagement improve output and productivity and ability to recruit top talent. After providing the factual data, I focused on what shipbuilders and manufacturers specifically need to do to improve employee engagement and to create an engagement culture.
I explained, that for employees to feel a strong sense of engagement, six factors should be considered and scrutinized according to AON. They define “Engagement” from six sharp angles: Work, People, Opportunities, Total, Reward, Company Practices, and Quality of Life.
WORK: Basically, what are the tasks, the process, and resources a company provides to help individuals perform their job? Answers to these questions should provide employees a strong sense of accomplishment so that they can feel good about their work and themselves. Do they have the tools that they need to get the job done efficiently and effectively? Are they doing their job efficiently versus wasting time and energy on menial tasks that make no difference? Are tasks boring or meaningful? If things are not working, ask them for suggestions and recommendations on how to improve their work and implement their ideas.
PEOPLE: Who are the teams and the people with whom the employees work? Is there a "people focus," that is conveyed by senior management and managers alike? Do employees feel like they are coworkers and part of the greater team? Do they understand who the end customer is and how their job and their work make a difference in those individuals’ lives? Is there a greater good that is achieved working as a team?
OPPORTUNITIES: Are your employees in a dead-end job? Will they be stuck in the same situation, in the same role, in the same place for the next 35 years? Are there career and financial advancement opportunities and growth that makes them feel proud and gives them a sense of achievement? Do you provide learning and development? If they don’t have learning opportunities, they will seek new employment where opportunities DO exist. Be forward thinking and consider what type of opportunities you can give your employees to provide them with a variety of experiences and exposure to new opportunities.
TOTAL REWARDS: Are compensation and benefits fair and consistent with market prices and conditions? If not do something about it. One of the recent examples of stepping up to the plate to improve performance and engagement was Salesforce.
I shared the story of Salesforce and their compensation disparity among male and female employees. You may have heard the story; it was widely broadcast on 60 Minutes and written up in Forbes magazine. The CHRO Cindy Robbins came to the CEO, Marc Benioff, and said that there was compensation disparity between male and female across the entire organization. Marc Benioff was incredulous and in disbelief. He quickly did an internal assessment of that situation as well as a competitive landscape of pay; and determined that indeed it was a fact. Benioff fixed the problem by dedicating $3 million that year to correct the discrepancy, and then another $3 million the following year to correct compensation differences by gender, race, and ethnicity across the company. He also created a new rule that would make it more likely that women would be promoted and seen as leaders.
As crucial as compensation, recognition is also imperative. So, if someone is doing a great job; say so. Recognize your employees formally and informally. Gratitude doesn’t have to cost any money to say, “thank you for doing a great job today” or “I appreciate all your hard work and efforts to get this job done right!”. As the boss, walk around the shipyard acknowledge people when you see a job well done. Thank them for their efforts. Let them know that you appreciate all that they do.
I shared a personal story about my father-in-law who owned and managed a slaughterhouse in downtown Detroit. He was a Holocaust survivor and knew real suffering and hardship as a young man. He survived his parents and many of his siblings and extended family, who perished. He came to the United States in 1951 and built up a successful business that employed over 250 people on 3 eight hour shifts 24/6 and transported beef, veal, and lamb across the United States. He knew just about every single employee by their first name. He welcomed them to the plant every day and made sure they had beef on special occasions like a christening or baptism, or wedding. He recognized them for their hard work and dirty jobs because he communicated that they were doing something meaningful every day by putting food on people’s tables across the United States and that was meaningful work. He would say, “People should not go hungry like he did when he was in a concentration camp.” In appreciation for their hard work, every Thanksgiving, every employee received a 25-pound Butterball turkey, and on Christmas, he gave everybody a dozen of the best aged prime rib steaks money could ever buy. He used to say, “When you give bread out in slices, it comes back to you and loaves.” He lived a fulfilling, charitable and meaningful life until he died at the age of 102 five years ago. Recognition is critical!
COMPANY PRACTICES: What are the company’s processes and procedures regarding HR practices, organizational design, reputation (brand) management, business practices, and alignment, diversity and inclusion, recruitment practices, appraisal systems employee satisfaction/feedback and internal communications? Are all these practices hitting the mark, do they represent high standards and best practices? What is your brand value and purpose? Is your reputation positive and intact? Is your company a corporate citizen? Do you have a community outreach program? Do you care about the environment and pollution? What is your safety record? All these things matter to your employees regarding becoming engaged with your company.
QUALITY OF LIFE: The last part of the engagement juggle is quality of life. Here, we’re talking about the physical work environment. Is it inviting? Are safeguards in place to ensure the welfare of the employee? Is there work-life balance on the job and off the job? Are there breaks? Is there a place where people can go to relax when they’re not on the job? In some environments, there are gyms and nap rooms like at Google and Facebook. I know, there’s no napping in a shipyard. How would the quality of life be described at your company if an employee was casually communicating with a buddy of his over a beer? What would they say?
In balance, companies need to consider all six of these factors in determining the best way to establish high engagement for their employees around criteria and functional areas within their discipline.
The bottom line is that employee engagement matters—now more than ever. Moreover, the solutions for maintaining or improving engagement is increasingly complex for companies operating in an environment of instability and varied economic conditions. Engaged employees deliver better performance, which is critical for business success. They understand their role in the business strategy, have a secure connection and commitment to the company, are more involved, and strive to go above and beyond in their jobs.
I ended the talk by promoting the idea of "PURPOSE." I related a story at the beginning of the speech about Noah receiving a message from God to build an ark in Genesis 6:13. I explained that Noah had a sense of purpose and an attitude of servitude to save the world. At the end of the talk, after hearing all the engagement facts/figures and prescriptions on how to establish an environment of engagement, I asked them to examine their sense of purpose, just like Noah in the Bible.
I strongly suggested that if their personal purpose was not meaningful, they should seriously rethink what they do and why it was important to them. I encouraged the audience to find the REAL value, and what was important to them. I instructed the audience to share this purpose with employee’s day in and day out. I asked if their company has its purpose in order? Are people proud to work with them? Do they inspire their people, provide them with new work opportunities, care about their managers and the company? Is there a purpose in their lives? Only then will their shipyards reap the benefits of engagement.
Noah got it. I hoped they would too.
Call me or email me if you would like to see a full copy of my talk. I'd be happy to discuss with you and share my thoughts with you.
Allan Steinmetz CEO - Inward Strategic Consulting 617-558-9770