Shay McConnon InterviewShay McConnon is the creator of the An Even Better Place to Work program.

He is a leading authority on leadership and culture issues and he has developed a unique blend of magic, humor and common sense in his keynote presentations.

He is also the author of 17 books on personal development and is an inspirational, entertaining speaker with a powerful business message.

We sat down with Shay in the summer of 2013 to get his insights into workplace relationships, employee engagement and more.

 

[S @ W]

A recent Gallup poll showed that only 30% of US workers are engaged in their workplace (52% said they are not engaged and another 18% said they are actively disengaged). What should CEOs, HR Executives and other senior managers be doing to turn this around?

[Shay]

Engagement is much more than consulting your staff. It is much more than running a survey and creating a focus group to implement changes. It is not a project, a program or an 'add-on'.

It is a way of being, of working and of doing business. It is about engaging with the job, colleagues, management and mission of the organization. It is multi-faceted and complex.

Employees need to be engaged with the engagement process rather than it be something done to them by management. However, while the business case for employee engagement has been made, organizations still struggle to establish it.

A good way forward for senior managers is to understand why people disengage, identify who the dis-engaged are (individuals and teams) and develop ways to re-engage them.

When starting in a new job, most employees are motivated and keen to contribute. So why do they become indifferent, disengaged and start to complain?

If all people hear is management's agenda or the business agenda but never their own agenda, you can expect people to disengage, which in turn creates all those costly people problems.

The solution to re-engagement has to lie in connecting with individual agendas. Initiating programs and solutions which enable managers to identify where the disengaged are and (more importantly) how to re-engage them is of paramount importance to any company wanting to be really successful.

[S @ W]

We often hear organizations say things like 'our employees are our greatest asset' yet in many cases they are seen as merely a means to the end product. How can a people-centric approach, where employees are led rather than managed and are satisfied in their jobs, lead to this end product being delivered in a much more efficient and productive manner?

[Shay]

We come to work to have our needs met. It may just be the salary so we can pay bills and put food on the table but for many it is also for social reasons, feelings of self-worth etc.

When our needs are not met, we disengage, absenteeism increases, we see higher attrition rates and staff will be unhappy. These are telltale signs that leadership is not working.

There are two aspects to leadership

  • Leading the business - delivering on the business objectives.
  • Leading the people in the business - getting the best from everyone and enabling the (aforementioned) business objectives to be met more efficiently.

Getting the best from people comes as a result of needs being met or connected with – of course the business need has priority over an individual need and it is never about appeasement. No business should be giving a person what they have asked for when it is at the expense of the business or another employee's needs.

The secret to having happy, fulfilled, engaged, motivated, productive people lies in their needs being met or at least connected with at work.

You may not be able to make your average people great, but you will definitely make your great people average by ignoring their needs.

[S @ W]

We all know that workplace relationships are critical to an organizations ability to be productive and efficient. Why do many organizations (and departments/managers within) struggle with this?

[Shay]

Evidence would suggest that most people are not good at relationships (in personal and professional lives) and there is a consequence if we don't get our relationships right. The greatest source of inefficiency for most organizations lies in working relationships – conflict, mistrust and lack of collaboration

When you buy a new computer, phone or dishwasher for example, it comes with an instruction book enabling you to understand how it works so you get the best from it. Human beings do not come with an instruction booklet so we learn by trial and error – no wonder our relationships are hit and miss.

To minimize wastage in working relationships we need to be talking to each other, inviting feedback, offering feedback and problem solving on each other's needs. The way forward is that of partnership. Work with me. Tell me how to get it right for you, even coach me in these behaviours.

When processes aren't working, everyone sits up and takes notice but when relationships aren't working, they are somehow seen as interfering with work. Really, relationships are every bit as much a part of work as processes are. They too need to be engineered and tweaked.

Collaborative relationships don't just happen. They need to be created and maintained once they are in place. They are critical to business success.

First class businesses have first class relationships.

[S @ W]

An Even Better Place to Work revolves around 7 key areas designed to bring about better working relationships, improved employee engagement and healthy workforce dynamics. How do these separate parts come together to help individuals, departments and the organization become a 'better place to work'

[Shay]

An Even Better Place to Work is an on-line, self-managed program of measures, activities and resources to enable people to feel even more valued, open, engaged and happier at work. It is designed to improve the quality of work life for everyone and will support team leaders in getting the best from their people.

What it definitely is not however, is more work for team leaders. Rather than add to their work-load, it actually frees up their time as people engage more and take greater ownership for their issues. You can expect lower attrition rates, fewer absences, less complaints and higher levels of openness, trust and collaboration. An Even Better Place to Work gives you the tools to lead, rather than the theory of leadership, and because it is systemized it will be sustained.

It will also be a fraction of the cost of most culture change programs while being far more effective. It is different in so many ways to other programs:

  • Owned internally
  • Designed for busy people
  • Works from the inside out not top down
  • It is holistic and aligns with existing organizational processes
  • The question constantly asked is "What am I going to do?" not "What is management going to do?"
  • The diagnostic data is real time and differences are felt immediately
  • It requires minimal time out of the business, ensuring the day job gets done
  • Allows you to identify dis-engaged staff and more importantly ways to re-engage them
  • Solutions are found at the local rather than the corporate level
  • It is 5% diagnostic and 95% solution
  • Driven by individuals not management or HR
  • People like it and it works – you will not have to be 'pushing' people to engage.

Although all of this this may be difficult to believe....the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I would encourage companies to run a pilot (limited numbers or individual department) for 2 months and they will be able to verify for themselves.

[S @ W]

The US economy is improving (albeit slowly) after some very down years. Why should companies now seize the opportunity to embrace employee engagement and bring in programs that build better workplace relationships?

[Shay]

With salary freezes, benefit cuts and (unfortunately) reduced head-count, staff morale has taken a battering over the past few years. For many organizations to survive, the focus had/has to be on delivering the business need, often at the expense of staff needs.

While organizations still need to be financially responsible, now is also the time for them to be emotionally generous and recover the good will, energy and motivation of their people.

Let's be honest, people usually don't take great care of a rental car. After all it is not theirs and they don't own it. Engagement is a form of ownership. If personnel are not engaged at work, are they likely to take ownership? Of course not.... They are likely to be compliant but not committed.

Going the extra mile comes from engagement and having a true commitment to engagement is so important in today's competitive economy. Doing so will help boost the bottom line by creating a well led, highly motivated workforce.