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Earning Trust: An Executive Challenge
While executive teams are paying more attention to employee engagement as a performance driver, their focus is detached from their own influence. Engagement is seen as an independent workforce characteristic.
If today’s business environment could be summarized in one word, that word would be “fluid.” When an executive team thinks it has the organization under control, it cannot assume that grasp will hold for long; things are changing too fast. Markets shift quickly, product cycles are short, processes are constantly being improved and competitive advantage only lasts as long as a company can innovate faster than competitors. The labor market has become so fluid that younger employees will change employers as readily as they change cellphones.In this environment of accelerated information and drowning under a barrage of expectations, executives can find themselves trapped in reactive mode. Despite operating under the microscope, senior leaders have to find ways to inspire and help employees engage with the organization’s goals. But trust is fleeting. It is hard to earn and retain.In consulting firm BlessingWhite’s 2013 “Employee Engagement Research Report Update,” based on the feedback from 7,065 individuals worldwide, research confirms a strong correlation between trust in executives and immediate managers and engagement levels. Trust would be a nice-to-have if it didn’t have a direct impact on the performance of the business. But since BlessingWhite defines engagement as being both high satisfaction at work and high contribution to the organization’s goals — through alignment and effort — there is a strong correlation between those who trust the executives on one side and contribution levels on the other.Trust in executives is one high-performance component. Senior executives are by default the exemplars, positive or negative, of culture. If they are not working hard to establish trust throughout the organization, learning leaders can’t expect managers or individual contributors to place a high value on trust.What Is Engagement?
While organizations are keen to maximize each individual’s contribution toward corporate imperatives and metrics, employees need to find purpose and satisfaction in their work. Consequently, BlessingWhite’s engagement model focuses on an individual’s contribution to the company’s success and personal satisfaction in his or her role (Figure 1). Full engagement represents an alignment between maximum job satisfaction (“I like my work and do it well”) and maximum job contribution (“I help achieve the goals of my organization”).
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