Posted on April 22 in Marketing Strategy

Disruptive Business: Let Your Employees Be Talented

Part Two of a Two Part Series:

In Part One of this blog, I noted that “disruptive” has become a buzzword now worthy of employee engagement—disruptive in that you’re doing something different to achieve a different result. Gallup figures on employee engagement are dismal, so how can you help your employees innovate, engage and feel they’re part of something bigger?

To me, the Gallup numbers say the traditional model of corporate management through a “chain” is broken, or at least significantly damaged. After a deep recession; consequent and often recurrent layoffs; and in my experience, a clear message that profit trumps people, it’s clear that companies must enfranchise their employees and listen to their ideas.

A company’s frontline employees hear and experience almost every bug or complaint that a company receives. Give employees a way to communicate what they hear and how they would approach the issue. You hired talent for a reason—let them BE talented. This approach could result in your finding “high talent” employees who already know your business.

By the same token, managers—those who engage with the frontline every day—often see ways for departments to work together that high-level executives might not see. Their jobs require them to work across silos and solve problems on deadline.

I was one of those managers, and the only way I was able to innovate or tackle the problems I saw was to make a plan, secretly meet with employees in other, related departments and have them poke holes in it until I met every challenge and my plan was bulletproof.

Without exception, I was told my plans would never work because those same, under-empowered supervisors would say no. In every case, once I overcame their objections and we implemented my plans, they were highly successful. They won awards. Yet I got no recognition, no encouragement to continue trying new solutions.

Christensen, in another paper, zeroes in on the key: top management.

Without the engagement of top management, no amount of employee engagement or agreement on corporate goals will make an impact.

Gallup’s 45+ percent of disengaged managers and 60+ percent of disengaged employees won’t change. And that leaves your company at risk of falling behind other companies that have disruptive managers leading the way to success.

How might you start creating disruptive employee engagement?

  • Companies can enable their employees at every level to explore new ideas and solve challenges simply by including them in the conversation—the more you do it, the more they trust you. Set up a process for suggesting ideas and then investigating and implementing them. Give employees whose ideas are instigated company recognition and financial reward.
  • It’s important to understand that every employee has more than one skill set. Your workforce consists of multiple points of view that can lead to disruptive innovation, communication and problem identification.
  • Asking your employees to open up and possibly complain assumes they will have absolute anonymity. No one will be truthful if there’s a chance they can be identified. Assure complete anonymity and mean it. Perhaps get feedback through dummy terminals in the break room so suggestions can be made without consequence. If that doesn’t work for your security folks, ask them how they’d do it.
  • Then, ask different questions of your employees: What do you find difficult about working here? What draws your attention from your main purpose? Do you feel you are conducting business that is part of your main purpose at your company? How can we make you feel more engaged?
  • Encourage informal discussions and cross-team communications. Create an environment where collaboration and the presentation of problems, ideas and solutions is rewarded, even if it’s just getting folks into the same room with the people who can make those ideas happen. Everyone wants to be heard and valued.
  • Offer your employees the latitude to “make the call” and change something that’s not right or stop a procedure that won’t work. That’s what Toyota and now BP (who learned the hard way via Deepwater Horizon) do. Anyone can stop the line when they see a problem. Anyone.

So maybe it IS time for disruptive employee engagement. Or should the term be disruptive management?

Whatever you call it, the old “we’ve always done it this way” model of business simply won’t work anymore. The payoffs are huge—just ask Bill Gates. When he challenged his workforce to address the threat of Netscape back in 1995, they innovated to the point they crushed Netscape out of existence.

Isn’t that how you want YOUR employees to come to work every morning, ready to push harder and farther than you ever dreamed? Get disruptive, and get ready.

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