Uncertainty, rapid change, isolation and new technologies. We are all having to face these challenges on a daily basis. For organisations that are able to trade, being agile and adapting to these changes will be key to their long term future performance and success.
All employees will have a unique perception of how they are seeing these challenges and how they adapt to them. This is something that we often hear, but makes little impact on how managers interact with employees to seek their perceptions of what is happening. We often think how different can someone’s perception be to mine?
Very – is the honest answer. At its most basic, this is most starkly identified by Dr. David Eagleman in his book ‘The Brain’ when he points out that in the world, there is no such thing as smell, colour or noise. What there is instead are molecules, light and sound waves. Our body has receptors in areas such as the tongue, nose and ears that convert these molecules and waves into signals which are translated by our brains. How the receptors create the signals and how our brains interpret the signals could provide a different understanding of how we perceive the world to anyone else. This is more pronounced in people who are colour blind or have a form of Synesthesia where they can taste sounds, smell colours or see scents.
In addition, throughout our lives, the experiences we will have had in our families, friendships, school and work will have created a colourful varied pattern in our subconscious which becomes our hard drive as to how we live and operate. It impacts on how we perceive situations and drives our moral values. These life experiences provide each of us with a unique toolbox of experience and knowledge that we can bring to any situation. It ensures that every toolbox that an employee brings is different.
However, businesses are still missing out on taking advantage of this broad array of life experience and knowledge from employees. One report in ‘Nailing the Evidence” by Engage for Success found that 64% of employees say they have got more to offer than they are being asked to demonstrate at work. That is nearly two thirds of employees who are saying that they have more tools in the toolbox that they could use. These employees potentially know how to resolve problems that their managers and leaders don’t even know are problems yet.
For organisations to be successful in adapting to these challenging times, they are going to need to find a way to tap into this expansive knowledge that their teams hold, allowing them to identify resolutions to challenges and navigate their way through to a new normal.
Jim Collins in his book ‘Good to Great’, identified that the most successful leaders of distinguished thriving companies were self-effacing people who were able to constantly ask questions and then face and address the answers that came back. They addressed failures knowing that it would help them succeed in the end. Whereas those leaders of organisations that ultimately failed were more interested with their own reputation or personal greatness. They were also not prepared to listen to feedback or suggestions unless it was about their own personal ability.
Dr Carol Dweck identifies these two different approaches as ‘fixed mindset’ and ‘growth mindset’. Those with a fixed mindset overestimate their own ability and have limited interest in working to update or retain their knowledge or skill. They thrive in situations that are within their current skill set or knowledge levels and they see failure as catastrophic. Fixed mindset leaders often demonstrate an ‘I am more important than you are syndrome’. Whereas those in a growth mindset seek out feedback. For them, learning and acquiring new knowledge and skills is a sense of fulfilment in itself. They focus on doing their best whilst learning and improving. They are of the same mindset of Nelson Mandela, when he said, “I never fail, I only succeed or learn”, where everyone’s role is as important as each other’s.
We all have an element of fixed mindset. But for organisations to be successful as we navigate a path out of Covid, they will require an increased focus on the prevalence for growth mindsets. This will be hard. As Malcolm Gladwell observed, as a society we value natural effortless accomplishment over achievement through effort. Yet, it is now more than ever the focus on learning, and the effort required to do so, that will make the difference.
To be able to move from a fixed mindset and create a greater growth mindset, managers and leaders need to openly invite feedback and comments. The current Covid situation may have required organisations to review their purpose for now, but once this is agreed, this will require leaders and managers to spend time speaking with their teams to seek their input, feedback and views as to what else they could be doing to help the organisation achieve their purpose. When I have worked with organisations and I have been out asking their employees questions such as “what is working well” and “what else could we do to make work better” the response can be cautious from employees. I have even had people say that I ask really odd questions, particularly in environments where there has always been a fixed mindset and where they had not actively asked for feedback.
As we seek feedback and input from employees, the more confidence we can provide that we are listening to their wide breadth of suggestions and demonstrate where we have taken action, the more they will be prepared to share their ideas.
When leaders and managers are asking for ideas from employees, they need to be aware that there is unlikely to be a ‘eureka’ moment that revolutionises an organisation. This process will be about marginal gain. Identifying small changes that build on each other to create overall success, as it is easier to find 100 x 1% improvements as opposed to 1 x 100% improvement. Dyson did not create his revolutionary vacuum cleaner at the first attempt. Formula one teams did not learn how to change a set of tyres in under 3 seconds overnight. Small steps of marginal gain were required which takes effort and time.
Each idea and suggestion will require a response. This will provide the assurance to employees that their ideas are important to the organisation and encourage future ideas to flourish. This will also help to ensure that consideration is given to every suggestion by managers and leaders and not passed over without consideration.
This is different to carrying out a staff survey or a (virtual) suggestion box. This is about proactively leading a conversation with each employee. We are seeing changes in how we work on an almost daily basis. Having regular conversations with employees will help to identify opportunities in a timely manner, thus also allowing organisations to be more agile and respond to change equally quickly.
Some managers may have lost their own sense of being if their teams have now moved from an office base to remote working. It will be important that when they are seeking employee feedback and input in to how the organisation’s achieve their purpose, they should not seek to investigate actions and behaviours of their employees more than they would when the team were in the office. This could create a sense of undermining the autonomy of the employee, which would be a retrospective step and close down the provision of future ideas.
Promoting growth mindsets and seeking ongoing feedback may already be working better in some organisations compared to others. For instance, engineering companies who are used to resolving technical problems may already be following these principles. Whereas this could require more time and effort in public sector or regulatory bodies, where they are used to following process.
In conclusion, the title to this article is ‘Who has the answers to help your organisations through Covid 19’, and the answer is your employees! Their diverse range of life experiences, education and work experience offer organisations an endless resource of knowledge, skills and energy when approached with a culture focused on developing a growth mindset. Asking for regular input and feedback from employees, that is actively responded to, will stimulate a growth mindset that will help organisations achieve their full potential.
To find out more about the tools that help managers create this level of engagement contact us here.
About Frazer Rendell and e-trinity
Frazer has spent 9 years delivering consultancy and training on employee engagement. The success that Frazer has had in delivering this within the UK has also been replicated in Ireland, Taiwan and Spain. Prior to this, Frazer spent nearly 25 years gaining senior operational experience in Hospitality, Retail and Healthcare Industries.
Frazer now runs ‘e-trinity consultancy’ which delivers practical and measurable tools to improve employee engagement throughout organisations.
Frazer is also the Founding Partner of ‘Yellowblue Partners’ which brings together 7 businesses who are all passionate about putting employees at the heart of an organisations success and achieving both the employee’s and the organisation’s full potential.
Frazer has written articles on employee engagement in People Management, The Telegraph and Thomson Reuters amongst others. He also speaks regularly at events, including the CIPD Conference on Employee Engagement and the Applied Research Conference. Frazer was also nominated as one of the top 30 HR Influencers. In addition, Frazer is heavily involved with ‘Engage for Success’ in the UK, where he chairs a subgroup researching ‘The Impact of Performance Management on Employee Engagement’ supported by Cranfield Business School.