This is Part 2, you can read Part 1 on Creating Employee Engagement.
The Role of Culture in Engagement
Culture is the set of shared assumptions, beliefs, and principles that a group or organization holds. It is best measured or observed by the shared behaviors or habits that are exhibited.
A certain set of beliefs and behaviors need to be developed to support engagement. The most important people to exhibit these behaviors are front-line managers. They are in the best position to create the culture, and the easiest to destroy it, simply based on the frequency and consistency of engagement. Front-line managers are often ignored or at least under-invested in during a lean transformation.
The beliefs that support engagement can be stated many ways, but are centered around two fundamental principles. One is that everyone can make a contribution, and is an expert at something. Two is that given the opportunity, most people want to make a positive contribution. These are foregone conclusions that all people share these beliefs. There are others that can also be enablers to success. What do you consider them to be?
But the important thing is not that front-line managers, and managers of managers, espouse those beliefs. What’s important is that they practice them through the right behaviors. Behaviors is what people experience and it’s what influences their own behaviors. Secondly, regardless of your role, the only way you can really measure whether your front-line managers believe these fundamental principles is by observing their behaviors.
So what behaviors best demonstrate these beliefs?
- How a person reacts when someone makes a mistake is a great indicator. If the first reaction to a mistake is condemnation and chastising, then this is not consistent with a belief that people are intending to do good. If instead a mistake is met with empathy and support to correct the mistake, that is a very different experience to the individual.
- An overall approach of inquiry first. Asking questions to draw out people’s knowledge, to learn from them, and even to challenge them demonstrates that you believe that they have the knowledge, they just need to put it to better use.
- A leader that believes that people can make a contribution will seek out opportunities to capture that, whether that is participation on kaizen events or the development of best practices. Exhibiting the opposite belief is that any time away from direct labor is inherent waste.
What other behaviors would you like to see?
If you are coaching others, keep in mind that just because someone isn’t exhibiting the right behaviors doesn’t mean that they DON’T carry those beliefs. They may lack the skills to exhibit them, or they may require feedback because they think they are exhibiting them when they are not. Sometimes there is a gap in our own true beliefs and our own behaviors. But in the end, it is the behaviors that make the difference.