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6 Discussion Topics to Increase Productivity, Quality, & Employee Retention

Findings from Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report indicate 30% of the U.S. workforce is engaged. Gallup estimates the 70% of disengaged workers are costing the U.S. economy between $450,000,000,000 and $550,000,000,000 per year. What becomes possible when we increase employee engagement?

How do we increase employee engagement? Wile E. Coyote would have ACME Co. deliver an ingenious apparatus designed specifically to increase engagement. It never ended well for Wile E. Coyote and a whole bunch of hoping and wishing isn’t likely to help the executive wondering how to engage our employees better.

I equate the phrase “increase employee engagement” to “eating healthily.” I’m not suggesting organizations can become more productive by offering free carrots at lunch.

I am suggesting that employee engagement is too vague of a term – similar to eating healthily. We have to be specific. In Chip and Dan Heath’s book, Switch: How to Change When Change Is Hard, they highlight the work of two West Virginia University health researchers wanting to make a difference. The researchers knew they had to be specific; they ran an ad campaign for two weeks encouraging people to buy 1% milk the next time they went food shopping. Before the campaign started in the targeted regions, 1% milk accounted for 18% of all milk sales. Two weeks later it accounted for 41%.

What were the results after the campaign ended?

Six months after running the campaign, 1% milk accounted for 35% of sales – only a 6% drop and nearly double what they were prior to the campaign.

I propose we give managers specific suggestions to help them engage their employees. There are six topics managers can discuss with their employees to learn how to tailor their leadership to each employee. To remember these topics, I use the phrase, “I Enjoy Seeing Results from the Group.

Interests

  • What are your employees’ ambitions?
  • What do they hope to get from the current assignment?
  • What opportunities do they see to use their talents?

Expectations

  • What are your expectations of each employee?
  • What can you provide to help them meet those expectations?
  • What are their expectations of you?

Style

  • How do they prefer to communicate?
  • How do you prefer to communicate?
  • How do they prefer to learn?
  • How do they prefer to work? Do they like to take initiative or told what to do?

Recognition

  • How do they prefer to be recognized? Privately (e.g. pay raise, bonus, handwritten note, verbal praise) or publicly (e.g. Awards ceremony, note to the team, praise at a meeting)? (Either is an acceptable answer.)

Feedback

  • How frequently do they like to receive feedback?
  • What can you do to provide specific feedback that focuses on behaviors rather than attitudes?

Growth

  • What do they see themselves doing two or three years from now?
  • Who can they talk to learn more about what those roles entail?
  • What skills do they need to develop?
  • What opportunities are available to help them achieve those goals?

Your turn. Tell me about the specific actions you take to engage your team.

How would you build on these topics so you can start working to increase productivity, quality, and employee retention?

About Gus Lawson

Gus Lawson has helped federal government organizations develop their leadership and workforce, align their organizations, and implement change initiatives. He founded Lawson Advisors to help IT leaders build high-performing teams.

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