Employee Engagement

Knowledge Check!Recently this topic was raised in a town hall style meeting, and the comments from the leadership raised several concerns.  It appears that employee engagement is attempting to become a “buzzword” instead of an action item, and this bothers me greatly.  Worse, many people lead teams with vague ideas about what employee engagement means and then shape their own biases into the employee engagement program, making a pogrom of inanity and suffering out of a tool for benefiting and improving employee relations.

When discussing employee engagement, we must first begin with a fundamental truth; employees do not work for a company, do not work for a brand; they work for a manager.  An employee might like a company; they might enjoy having their professional brand aligned with a known branded organization. The employee might feel pride in associating with other employees under that brand.  When the road gets difficult at the end of the day, an employee works for a manager.  The relationship between a manager and an employee is one of trust operationalized and honed through shared experiences.

Employee Engagement – Defined

ProblemsAccording to several online sources, the definition of employee engagement is, “Employee engagement is a fundamental concept in the effort to understand and describe, both qualitatively and quantitatively, the nature of the relationship between an organization and its employees.”  If you believe this definition, you will miss the forest for the bark you are fixated upon!  Employee engagement is fundamental; it is not a concept, a theory, or a buzzword.  Employee engagement is a relationship between organizational leaders and the employees, but employee engagement is not about collecting qualitative or quantitative data for decision-making policy-based relationship guidance.  At the most basic level, employee engagement is the impetus an employee chooses to onboard because of the motivational actions of the manager they report to.

Employees must choose to engage; when they choose not to engage, there is no enthusiasm in the employee, and this can be heard in every action taken by the employees on the company’s behalf.  Is this clear; employee engagement is an individual action, where impetus leads to motivated and enthused action.  While organizational leaders can and do influence motivation, they cannot force the employee to engage!  Thus, revealing another aspect of why the definition found online is NOT acceptable for use in any employee engagement effort!Leadership Cartoon

Employee engagement is the actions an employee is willing to take, indicating their motivation to perform their duties and extra-duties for a manager they like.  Employee engagement is the epitome of operational trust realized in daily attitudes, behaviors, and mannerisms of employees who choose to be engaged in solving problems for their employer.  While incentive programs can improve employee engagement, if the employee does not first choose to enjoy the incentive, the incentive program is wasted leadership efforts.  The same can be said for every single “employee benefit.”  If an employee cannot afford the employer’s benefits, those benefits are wasted money the employer needs elsewhere.  Hence, the final point in defining employee engagement is the individualization of incentives and the individual relationship between managers and employees.  Stop the one-size-fits-most offerings, and let’s get back to talking to people.Anton Ego 4

Reflective Listening

Listening has four distinct levels; currently, these are:

      • Inactive listening – Hearing words, seeing written communication, zero impact mentally. Mainly because your internal voices drown out the possibility of communication.
      • Selective listening – Hearing only that which confirms your own voices, opinions, and biases. While others are speaking, you are already forming your response.
      • Active listening – Show the other person you are paying attention to, engage with meaning in a reply. You are focused on removing barriers to get your point across.
      • Reflective listening – Paying attention to intent and content, reducing emotion, two-directional as both parties are engaged in achieving mutual understanding.

Chinese CrisisInactive and selective listening can be heard through phone lines, instant messaging, text messaging, and easily observed during face-to-face communication.  Worse, active listening launches trust, and when faked, destroys credibility, ruining relationships.  Reflective listening can only achieve mutual understanding when both parties are choosing to listen intently and with the purpose of reaching mutual understanding.  The most powerful tool in an organizational leader’s toolbox for quickly rectifying employee engagement is reflectively listening.

Communication occurs in two different modalities, verbal and non-verbal.  Good communicators adapt their message to the audience using reflective listening and careful observation.  Adapting the message requires first choosing, determining who the primary and secondary audience is, and then focusing the message on the primary audience.  Next, adaptation requires prior planning, which includes mental preparation, practice, and channels for feedback.  Finally, adaptation requires listening to achieve mutual understanding, careful observation, asking questions designed to lead to mutual understanding, and clarifying what is being said to achieve mutual understanding.  The pattern described can be the tool that begins employee engagement but is not an end-all solution all by itself.Anton Ego

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative inquiry is a growth mechanism that states that what a business organization needs, they already have enough of, provided they listen to their employees.  Appreciative inquiry and common sense tell leaders who want to know and change their organization and how and where to begin.  Appreciative inquiry-based leadership is 6-continuous steps that start small and cycle to more significant problems as momentum for excellence permeates through an organization.  But the first step, just like in defeating a disabling addiction, is admitting there is a problem.

Here are the six operational steps for appreciative inquiry:

      1. Admit there is a problem and commit to change.
      2. Define the problem.
      3. Discover the variables and stay focused on the positive.
      4. Dream BIG!
      5. Design the future and outline the steps to that future.
      6. Destiny, create the destination you desire.

Bait & SwitchFollow the instructions on a shampoo bottle, “Wash, Rinse, Repeat.”  The appreciative inquiry model can be scaled, repeated, implemented into small or large teams, and produce motivated members who become the force to create change.  Allow yourself and your team to learn, this takes time, but through building motivation for excellence, time can be captured to perform.

Of all the steps in appreciative inquiry, it must be stressed that focusing on the positive is the only way to improve people.  Even if you must make careful observations to catch people doing good, do it!  Focusing on the positive provides the proper culture for engaging as many people as possible.  Criticism, negativity, aspersions, and insults all feed a culture of “Not my problem,” and when the employee claims, “not my problem,” they will never engage until the culture changes.

Organization

Andragogy - LEARNEmployee engagement requires structural changes to the organizational design.  Employee engagement is going to bring immediate change to the organization.  If the leaders, directors, managers, supervisors, team leaders, etc., are not prepared for and willing to change, employee engagement will die as an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.  As a business consultant, I have witnessed the death of employee engagement, and the death is long, protracted, and disastrous to the entire business.  Worse, individuals refusing to change stand out like red dots on a white cloth as employee engagement dies.

Thus, the first step in employee engagement belongs not to the employee, but the employer, who must answer this question: “Are we a learning organization willing to change, or are we a knowing organization who does not need to change?”  How the leadership answers this question will speak volumes to the employees closely observing and making their decisions accordingly.  Depending upon how that question is answered will depend upon whether the business can move onto the second step or remain stuck on the first step.

Andragogy - The PuzzleThe second step in employee engagement is training the organization to accept change and failure as tools for learning, growing, and developing.  A toddler learning to walk will fall more than they stay up before they can run.  The same is true when initiating employee engagement.  Guess what; you are going to fail; can you as an organizational leader accept failing?  Are you willing to admit you failed, made a mistake, and publicly acknowledge the blame and consequences?  Are you willing to allow others to accept the praise for doing the right thing?  Will you as an organizational leader accept change?  How you answer these questions also speaks volumes to the employees you are trying to engage.  Depending upon how you individually and collectively as a team answer these leadership questions will decide if you fall back to step one or advance to step three.

The third step in organizing employee engagement is total commitment.  Are you onboard?  Are all the leaders onboard?  Being onboard means 100% commitment to the organization dreamed in the operational steps to appreciative inquiry.  If not, do not launch an employee engagement program, for it will fail spectacularly!  Never forget the cartoons where a character has one foot on a boat leaving the pier and one foot on the dock; they get wet and left behind!

Have FUN!

Semper GumbyEngaging with employees should be fun, it should be an enjoyable experience, and it should bring out the best in you!  All because you want to see others engage, grow professionally, learn, develop, and become.  Your efforts to teach engagement lead you to learn how to engage better.  Seize these learning opportunities, choose to grow, but never forget to have fun.  My best tool for engaging with employees, dad jokes!  Really, really, really, bad dad jokes!  For example, when Forrest Gump came to Amazon, what was his computer password?

1F@rr3st1

When you get that joke, laugh; but wait for others to get it as well!  Employee engagement is fun, exciting, and can be the best job you ever had as a professional.  Just believe in yourself, believe in and invest the time in appreciative inquiry, organize yourself and your business, and always reflectively listen.Never Give Up!

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

 

NO MORE BS: It’s not Just Cloward and Piven – The Liberal Leftist Strategy

RememberConservatives in America far outnumber the leftists; why do the leftists keep winning elections?  Strategy and organization.  The entire leftist agenda is found in books with crazy titles, off colors, and devious tactics that you will easily miss unless you are explicitly looking.  Some of you might still be wondering about polemics, but your liberal friends are not only well versed in them but actively practicing.  A polemic is contentious rhetoric intended to support a specific position by forthright claims and undermining the opposing position.  Polemics arise in arguments about controversial topics, and generally, the person screaming at you is trying to employ emotion to overcome your logic.

Now, I could care less than spit on a hot iron pan about Cloward and Piven.  I know many people have become rabid about these two and Alinsky.  However, if conservatives are to awake and arise, we have to stop seeing people as enemies like the liberals act.  We need information, we need organization, and we need to understand what is coming at us from those who choose to see conservativism as dangerous, flawed, antique, or plain stupid.  All of which conservatism is not!

The first leftist strategy, used every time a liberal opens their mouth, is emotion.  The liberals have chosen to be emotionally supercharged because there is no substance to liberalism.  The liberal leftists are jealous that their political model does not have sufficient substance to support logic.  What do you do; first know you choose your emotions.  Please do not give the liberal the power over your emotions; this is precisely what they want.  When you lose emotional control, you lose the moral high ground, and you lost.

Emotional OutburstIn the thick of being screamed at, attacked, and harassed, controlling your emotions is difficult.  However, controlling your emotions is the only way to fight and win.  Practice controlling your emotional choices.  Not that you have to win every battle, but the more controlled you are, the faster you win when facing leftist shenanigans!

The second leftist strategy, the leftist, will assume the intellectual upper ground, make them pay for their assumptions.  The leftist have learned their Marx, they know their Cloward and Piven, they have received schooling in Alinsky, and they are prepared to blast you with these talking points and more.  These articles keep bringing up a common theme, learning, and being prepared to use what you know to discuss openly the topics the leftists raise.  Countering this information requires personal knowledge, experience in teaching, and a tangible sense of humor to laugh at the diatribes of the rubes!

Social Justice Warrior 2The following are questions you should be able to answer logically, succinctly, and persuasively:

  1. What is the First Amendment, and why is the First Amendment critical to modern times?
    1. I cannot stress this enough, the First Amendment is under attack, generally by those exercising the First Amendment to abuse and abase others.
    2. Before you make your answer personal, make your answer practical and well-sourced.
    3. Practice answering this question as often as possible, so your brain is ready to respond. Your brain is a muscle; exercise that muscle.
  2. What use is the Second Amendment in a society with police? I am not in the militia; what purpose is the Second Amendment to me?
    1. When emotion and politics cross, this issue always arises.
    2. Understanding begets action, but understanding requires learning, and learning is a choice. When asked these questions, the speaker is not looking to learn, but refute!
    3. Clarity and factual references are clear indicators you are prepared, and these quickly diffuse situations.
  3. What role does religion play in modern society? Your religion in public is infringing upon my freedom not to be exposed to religion.
    1. Blow an atheist’s mind, remind them that atheism is a religion solely based upon the definitions found in the dictionary.
    2. Why is America stronger based upon Judeo-Christian beliefs and legal structures?
    3. Get the leftist to give specific details about how religious symbols in public harm them. Address each answer with logic; the majority of what you will hear is simple hyperbole and bloviated buffoonery!

These are only three questions.  I encourage you to ask others, answer them, and share the questions and answers as preparation for the time when you will be called upon to answer for the hope that is in you!  As a personal question, no response is needed, “Does supporting the U.S. Constitution, liberty, freedom, and the Republic of these the United States of America fill you with hope?”

September 2011, New Political Science released the Cloward and Piven article about poverty, originally published in May 1966.  The new release of “A Strategy to End Poverty” comes with a sob story introduction from Piven.  I do not care about her and Glen Beck’s disagreements, and frankly, dear reader, neither should you.  NO MORE BS is all about forward-looking and action.  I mention all this to help you understand the exaggeration and amplification that  Cloward and Piven have received by paying them a modicum of attention.

Some history, in May 1966, Democrats held the Senate, the House, and the Presidency.  President Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying:

“The philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation is the philosophy of government in the next.”

Leadership CartoonPres. Lincoln’s quote is prophetic, as Cloward and Piven proved.  These authors wrote the “poverty” paper aimed explicitly at shaking up the Democratic Party and helping the poor through the larger government.  The first paragraph asks two questions: organizing the poor to press the government for relief and reorganizing and developing an array of activist forces.  Cloward and Piven intend to remove States from Welfare and make the Federal Government pay for poverty relief leading to a guaranteed income.  Remember, the history; the Democratic Party needed more voters, more activists, and better organization to mobilize the activists.  That there was a ready-made population needing representation in the impoverished was a bonus.

Never forget what President Jefferson said about government, for this is another instance of prophecy from a founding father and previous U.S. President!

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

Up to May 1966, the impoverished were encouraged to work, and different states approached the impoverished in their own methods and manners, as an extension of U.S. Constitutional States’ Rights.  Some states had a government solution; other states relied upon religions and civic-minded people, other states left the impoverished alone and did nothing for them.  50-different states approaching a problem in 50-different ways was unacceptable to  Cloward and Piven.  Thus, the teachers in one generation began instructing so that the next generation became activist government workers who established the Welfare Policy as an unconstitutional extension of the Federal Government.  Is the pattern of injury clear?

Government Largess 4Although President Franklin D. Roosevelt focused mainly on creating jobs for the masses of unemployed workers, he also backed the idea of federal aid for needy children and other dependent persons. By 1935, a national welfare system had been established for the first time in American history.  Cloward and Piven are proposing to use activists to raise the plight of the poor to produce a massive expansion of the Welfare State, remove the remaining vestiges of individual state involvement, and force an enormous increase in Federal Government size and interventions.  Until 1966, the Welfare programs intended to get people off the dole; Cloward and Piven wanted to reverse this course so there would always be an actively aggrieved and impoverished population in America.  Is the injury to America clear?  Is the path used now obvious?

Welfare State BeginsRemember, most of the adherents who learned their Cloward and Piven at the knees of these two radicals are currently running the U.S. House of Representatives, government bureaus, and other Executive Branch positions of the U.S. Government.  Now, several leftists have decried my claiming that Speaker Pelosi was ever in a college class with Cloward and Piven; frankly, that does not matter.  Speaker Pelosi’s action remarkably follows the patterns discussed by Cloward and Piven.  President Biden supports the same positions as Speaker Pelosi.  Too many of the Sixties’ children are now in charge, and they all think and act similarly.  Hence, it is correct to declare these people learned their Cloward and Piven at these two radical professors’ knees.

The third paragraph of the “poverty paper” talks about fomenting a social crisis.  “Precipitating a profound financial and political crisis.”  Where “The force for that challenge, [will be] … a massive drive to recruit the poor onto the welfare rolls.”  Using emotional drivel, quasi-facts, and half-truths as weapons to drive an emotional reaction, Cloward and Piven construct the argument to sunder America from self-reliance to government reliance for a majority of the American Population.  The expanded welfare program’s end desire is “… to wipe out poverty by establishing a guaranteed annual income.”

Government Largess 2As concluding remarks, we return to history for a footnote on welfare.  In 1992, candidate Bill Clinton, a Democrat, ran for president, promising to “end welfare as we know it.” In 1996, a Republican Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, a reform law that returned most control of welfare to the states, supposedly ending 61 years of federal responsibility.  The “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act (PRWORA)” became law on 22 August 1996.  PRWORA granted states greater latitude in administering social welfare programs and implemented new welfare recipients’ requirements, including a five-year lifetime limit on benefits. After the passage of the law, the number of individuals receiving federal welfare dramatically declined.  Except, PRWORA has been blamed for what has amounted to bureaucratic inertia, dedicated poor classes of people being intransigent.  With these failures, the cry is being supported for reversing PRWORA and implementing a guaranteed income.

Welfare State EndsWhile PRWORA was hailed initially, PRWORA should have been a stepping stone to other changes to ease generations of families on government assistance off the government dole.  By treating all the impoverished in America the same, people are not helped into self-reliance.  Worse, life happens, and setbacks occur, neither of which can be settled by a bureaucrat picking winners and losers of welfare assistance.  Education is not a “golden ticket” to success.  Education is a gamble, and when you gamble, sometimes use lose, and even if you win, the gambling house always wins

As conservatives, we desperately need to understand the strategy of the left and organize.  We have to realize what Cloward and Piven have launched, a population of Americans deemed “forever poor” by the government and require coddling.  That this population of the poor is considered the activist army ready, at a moment’s notice, to be led into mischief, riots, and other social crimes as weapons to subvert conservatism, all led by the newest generation of government wannabes and intellectually superior people.

Image - Eagle & FlagI am not here judging any person, family, or situation.  I am here to help; I respect those who struggle and win and those who struggle and fail.  I would see all of you succeed, not through government handouts, but an individual plan where you can achieve, gaining self-respect and dignity.  The current Federal and State Government Welfare Programs are designed to keep people forever poor so that a bureaucrat can remain employed.  That is NOT the America I believe in and support!

References

Noble, C. (2004). The collapse of liberalism: Why America needs a new left. Rowman & Littlefield.
Piven, F. F. (2008). Challenging authority: How ordinary people change America. Rowman & Littlefield.
Piven, F., & Cloward, R. (2011). The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty (reprinted with a new introduction by Frances Fox Piven) New Introduction. New Political Science, 33(3), 271–284. https://doi.org/10.1080/07393148.2011.591906

© Copyright 2021 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.
All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:
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Organizational Contention – Or, Fostering the Case to Shift the Employment Paradigm

Medical doctors call any condition that progress slowly into advanced stages before manifesting itself openly a “silent killer.”  Organizational Contention (OC) is one of the deadly ‘silent killer’s’ rampant in business today.  Organizational contention can be as simple as when employees disagree with each other, or as complicated as when whole departments antagonize, hate, and actively work against each other.

Below are some examples of OC the author has knowledge of:

  1. A senior operations employee instigates a fight with a junior supply chain employee.  The senior employee picks up a metal rod and strikes the junior employee.  The resulting company investigation shows the junior employee at fault.  The junior employee leaves the company.  The contentious response of the senior employee will result in a repeat of this incident again.
  2. A manufacturing company whose labor union is so anathema to change that adding equipment to improve the manufacturing process almost initiates a strike.  A production supervisor added a fully anchored roll table to the output side of a machine.  The table sped up production 25% per part.  The owner averts the labor union’s strike.  The supervisor forced to apologize, the table removed, and the labor union fakes pacification until the next attempt to initiate change.  This animosity cycle to change repeats itself repetitively.
  3. A call center and business unit in one geographic area is despised by the other call centers and business units.  Actions initiated to show the value of the call center at fault is to no avail.  Enough employees at the other call centers and business units run down the other call center causing action by senior management to investigate the call center for possible closure.  The investigation uncovers that the call center is performing above company standard in all aspects measurable, the call center remains open, the dislike and discord continue unabated.
  4. A supervisor, to a fellow supervisor, describes a new employee as “unstable.”  Examples include “slamming papers down,” “scowling,” not making eye contact, and the supervisor invokes those action demanding words, “workplace violence,” to the other supervisor.  The second supervisor conditionally concurs based upon the reputation of the first supervisor; neither supervisor notifies human resources; no corroborating investigation occurs.  The second supervisor makes copies of the employee handbook, takes the offending employee aside, explains the observations, details the employee handbook sections applicable, all in an effort to “raise awareness.”  The employee expresses amazement that the first supervisor is receiving this perception and asks for specific instances, specific guidance, and situational training for the new corporate environment to “make the right first impression.”  No underlying causes, discussed in the meeting receive attention, no further training or guidance was received, and shortly after this incident, the employee was terminated.

Reality check, these are not fictitious examples.  Even in a down economy people remain people, organizational contention continues to cost valuable resources, and without significant change to organizational cultures the contention wins.  Even with massive interdiction changing the organizational culture, contention can still win.  Not all is without hope.  People do change, contention does lose, and the pressures feeding contentious responses mitigated.

At this point, some would argue for tougher business policies against employees on employee violence or human resources taking a more aggressive position regarding labor control and/or calling for more professionalism in the workplace towards other employees, ramping up existing or creating new incentive programs, etc.  The list is as endless as customizable solutions for specific incidents.  Others argue that since each organization is unique, unique solutions are required, that the one-size-fits-all or most approach will not be successful, that allowing people to express themselves is all fine and good within certain limits.

Change has come of age, essential and demanding change in thinking and actuality, for success in current market environments.  These former, unsuccessful arguments fail to address the core issues of individual employee responsibility, accountability, and organizational needs, to address organizational contention and foster safe working conditions.

Correcting organizational contention and fostering safe working environments do have a universal answer:  change the employment paradigm.  Traditional thinking on employees imply they “must be managed, controlled, and persuaded to act in a specific manner.”  Because the concept and reality of changing “employees” to “contractors,” specifically those choosing to affiliate with an organizational brand, prepares people to come fully equipped to work with a proper more prosperous mindset to do the job.  They do not need or want managing, controlling, and persuading.  As a result, organizational trust in people to make good decisions is realized when they have a stake in the organization that demands responsibility and accountability.

            Introduced in the article, “Shifting the Employment Paradigm,” are the support for the need of shifting and the reconstruction plan to shift.  This plan rectifies many of the diseases silently killing today’s business organizations through the process of ‘shifting the employment paradigm’ from traditional thinking to new and innovative levels of employee responsibility and accountability.  Employees are smarter, more engaged, and less needful of the expensive pampering traditional thinking forces upon organizations where employee relations are concerned.  It is time to make the change, shift the thinking, and reconstruct the business environment.

© 2012 M. Dave Salisbury

All Rights Reserved