Employee engagement: Success as result of cut back control

Posted on 9 Aug 2017 by Jonny Williamson

Rather than having to constantly battle complacency, conflicts of interest and resistance to change, what if your employee engagement was so high that workers naturally drove success and change?

Employee Engagement Innovation Collaboration Workforce Meeting - Stock Image
Momentum is about having a self-controlling, self-adapting and self-sustaining organisation, built around a specific set of management practices and practices.

Most manufacturing leaders find themselves spending most of their energy in pushing and massaging, getting people on-board and getting buy-in from their teams and other stakeholders. Most of them say they could spend their time better, have a bigger impact and get more joy from their work.

That might sound unrealistic, but what if you could actually achieve it? That’s where momentum comes.

Momentum is about having a self-controlling, self-adapting and self-sustaining organisation, built around a specific set of management practices and practices.

New research – conducted by MoreMomentum – has revealed that when the speed of external change is accelerating beyond the businesses’ ability to cope (such as arguably what’s happening around the digitisation of manufacturing), pulling decision making back into the centre and strengthening control mechanisms is counter-productive.

In other words, too much control is a skid for business. A more effective strategy for the long-haul is fostering adaptation, innovation, and decision making, within the organisation in a decentralised way.

Leadership from senior management should always be present, but to promote long-term growth, successful companies often build local decision-making into their culture, allowing it to become second nature to their people.

A more decentralised structured business culture relies on a high level of employee engagement, embedding it into a company’s DNA, meaning that change can be dealt with in a natural way backed up by most the employees.

Jan van Veen, managing director at Momentum, said about the importance of employee engagement: “Change is driven by people. They make it or break it. They need to have the confidence and safe harbour to drive continuous change, willingness to walk the extra mile, collaborate, take some risk.

“This is so much easier for engaged peoples and teams and quite difficult for disengaged teams. By the way, good momentum for continuous change will also have a positive impact on passion, eagerness and engagement. It works in both directions, strengthening each other.”

Winning habits of long-lasting achievers

Everyone shares a clear and succinct picture of changes in the industry, where the company is heading and what needs to change over the coming years. They all understand how they can contribute to the change, and ultimately, fit in.

Across all teams and levels there is a constructive and forward-looking dialogue on performance, progress, priorities and aligned actions. Everyone feels secure and confident to adapt and try new approaches.

Everyone has the power to make decisions within their role, to adjust, perform and improve. There are adequate guiding principles to ensure coherence and alignment of all decisions.

Everyone is aware of (potential) trends, opportunities and threats and the best practices available. They spend time in exploring, testing and learning. There is more focus on new things which go beyond the current core business, which is imperative for future success.

Momentum or the right time 

Companies should not miss the right time to hand over more responsibilities to employees. Van Veen said about the perfect moment for the shift of responsibility: “There is no reason to delay. However, do keep in mind it probably will not work to fully transfer from one day to the other. Increasing momentum is a journey in which it is crucial to take the right step in the right moment.

“During this journey, all four [of the above] habits have to be developed step by step, in balance. It has little value to have one habit very strongly developed and others very poorly. Little impact and big risk things will fall apart.”

In its study, Moremomentum refers to the creation of a “self-propelling organisation”, with a future of long-term success defined by leadership and not management, simply “momentum”, which can be generated by two main company behaviour drivers – management perspectives and management practices.

Momentum and employee engagement

Momentum doesn’t come from business as usual, it requires senior management to loosen control of day to day operations, trusting their people to engage with a bigger picture and do the right thing.

Managers can then accept their role is not in controlling, but in creating an environment for people to outperform expectations, which is naturally the best hotbed for innovation, requiring a step up in complexity and foresight.

There are two sources for resistance to momentum, the study reveals, too high stress levels because of the change itself and too high stress levels induced by a strong planning and controlling management structure.

 Four typical scenarios declining Momentum

Pressures and threats prevent many companies today from becoming agile enough to recognise and take advantage of opportunities that could be market-changing in scale. This inability will lead to a decline in sustainable growth, or in other words, declining momentum.

There are four major identified scenarios, where momentum and employee engagement can be impeded:

  • Low levels of collaboration, when people are more likely to blame others to hide their own lack of proactive solutions.
  • Low levels of coherence, when projects that require joined-up without co-ordination between departments, are unlikely to fulfil their potential or satisfy customers.
  • Low levels of engagement, when the people are indifferent to the success of a project or the company.
  • Low levels of action, when the organisation might face multiple challenges, but despite calls for innovative products or business models, nothing happens.

Van Veen commented: “The most dangerous scenario in a company declining momentum is when the top management is heavily incentivised by short term (financial) outcome in a company that is doing fairly well. In this case, all decision will be orientated in maximising short-term outcome, which will block any innovation and therefore the need to develop the organisation.”