Empower don't entitle

Nora Akins

Businesses have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to improve their employee engagement scores. Yet Gallup, who has measured engagement scores since 2000, has seen little if any change. Engagement has been defined a number of ways including employees who consistency give discretionary effort and have a desire to remain employed at their company. Gallup defines engagement as employees who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace. Engagement is directly linked to performance thus profit.

Performance and engagement are both results of cultural, technological and physical environments. Performance consultants agree that workplace performance is affected as much as 80 percent by environmental factors such as tools, materials and procedures, specificity and timeliness of feedback and clarity of expectations.

Removing barriers and providing the right tools to make tasks efficient are managerial functions. Managers miss the mark and entitlement creeps in when managers attempt to remove all the barriers. Entitlement is reinforced when barriers become excuses for lack of performance. Cy Wakeman, a leadership expert and best-selling author, advocates accepting the current circumstances and encouraging personal accountability for results.

Leaders are in charge of allocating those environmental factors to ensure employees have the tools and resources to fulfill their goals. Wakeman agrees that clarity of expectations and specificity and timeliness of feedback are required. She disagrees with leaders and managers who spoon feed employees. Instead allow employees to figure out how to navigate the barriers. Let them navigate and grow. Managers too focused on clearing the path for employees may also lose sight of performance expectations.

Likewise, teachers became so enamored with growth mindset to motivate children to achieve, some lost sight of achievement as its purpose. Carol Dweck, Stanford University Psychology professor and author of "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success" encourages people to reward effort in order to have a “growth mindset,” one that understands effort, not talent, leads to achievement. Growth mindset helps children feel good that they tried, even though they have yet to achieve the goal. Dweck did not teach you to stop at “Great effort; you did your best.”

Some educators who endorsed growth mindset did not follow through on classroom practices. Dweck’s response is, “The growth mindset was intended to close achievement gaps, not hide them.” The same is true for removing barriers in the work environment. Remove a barrier, don’t change the expectation.

Wakeman encourages managers and leaders to compensate value, not effort. She promotes compensating your employees in direct proportion to the value they deliver, not their effort or their daily tasks or hours invested. Managers who bend over backward to make life easy for employees may be enabling entitlement. If you have an entitled workforce, ask yourself how you are reinforcing it.

Nora T. Akins, of Strategic Management provides management training and refines human resource systems to help employers build respectful workplaces. Reach Nora at 219 873-1735 or nora@managepeopleright.com


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