Leadership That Engages Employees by Yusuf Reja

Yusuf Reja, a committed supporter of AWIB and Founder and CEO of Info Mind Solutions, an AWIB partner organization was the guest speaker on AWiBs monthly event held April 4th 2013. He gave a very practical and humorous presentation which was proved to be a resounding success.

Yusuf defined Employee Engagement as ‘an emotional attachment to one’s organization whereby one contributes positive energy to one’s organization’, and described the evolution from Satisfied Employees to Motivated Employees, who may enjoy their work but nevertheless lack commitment to Committed and Engaged Employees. The latter group of employees whom Yusuf argued typically constitutes of not more than 20% of a company’s payroll, take initiatives and responsibilities and they work with minimum supervision. Yusuf referred to Engaged Employees as the Ambassadors of their companies.

Although there is a positive correlation between employee satisfaction and contribution, Yusuf explained that for all their contribution to their companies, Engaged Employees are also flight risks and need high maintenance to ensure they stay challenged at their workplace with their needs – for compensation, for recognition and wellness- ensured.

On the other spectrum from Engaged Employees are Disengaged Employees who may constitute up to 60% of a company’s employees. These employees are un-motivated, task and not role-oriented. They often contribute negative energy to the company, badmouth their employers and promote the perspective that ‘the grass is green on the other side.’ As negative a presence as this segment of employees represents, they should not be ignored as that would risk allowing them to ‘poison’ the organization.

Responding to the common complaints presented by Disengaged Employees that they do not have an enabling environment in which to work, Yusuf reminded us that ‘’you cannot choose your boss.’’ He also reiterated what he tells job seekers – no company hires employees because they need money – they need to do the required work. On the same theme of some employees hedging their responsibilities, Yusuf quoted Oprah Winfrey; ‘’ ‘I have tried my best’ translates to, ‘I have failed, but with honor.’ ’’

Coming back to the perspective of employers, Yusuf then addressed what companies can do to be competitive employers in terms of attracting and retaining engaged employees.  In addition to branding themselves as employers of choice, companies need to invest in good talent sourcing. Yusuf gave the apt pieces of advice, ‘’Hire Slow – Fire Fast’’ which he explained is actually contrary to prevalent practice, and ‘’Hire for Attitude – Train for Skills.’’ He also recommended that companies establish better assessment tools to accurately predict competencies, and described ‘effective on-boarding’ as a thorough welcome and induction which if done properly would shorten the learning curve, and may reduce turn-over by up to 80%.

In terms of staff performance, Yusuf argued that traditional ‘Job Descriptions’ are now being replaced with ‘Job Purposes’ which outline competencies, clarify results with assignments challenging enough to motivate and specific enough to measure performance.  Therefore, the focus will shift from how to do certain tasks to not what to do. Similarly, performance development should shift its focus to increase employees’ competencies.  Yusuf recommends tailoring staff development to each employee and making individual performance development plans.

In this regard, Yusuf’s presentation emphasized the importance of open communication between employees and their management and effective internal communication. This more participatory management cycle, the development of organizational objectives is something that employees input on.

Finally, Yusuf spoke of Employee Wellness and the increasing obligation that employers have to ensure that employees are happy with their benefits. In addition to hearing concerns and voices of employees, and providing access to career development, employers also need to recognize and reward exceptional results.

A lively question and answer session followed Yusuf’s presentation and focused on practical applications of Leadership that Engages Employees both from the perspective of employers – including strategies to ensure a positive work environment – and from that of employees. Lastly, in his presentation, Yusuf had argued that culture has no impact on productivity and this raised an interesting discussion that brought us to the end of another successful AWIB event.

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