The 3 EEEs of Sustainable Frontline Employee Engagement

It’s no secret that Employee Engagement is important. Investments in Employee Engagement has been proven to have a positive impact on margins, employee retention, safety, and bottom-line profitability.

So if Employee Engagement is the “holy grail” that solves every problem every company has ever faced, then why doesn’t every company invest in it? One short answer is every company already does invest in Employee Engagement, or at least part of it. Organizations take steps to keep their employees happy and foster a positive corporate culture.

Another, more relevant answer, is that culture change can be hard. It requires a long-term commitment from senior leadership and investment in resources and skill development. As a result, organizations can focus on the “symptoms” of a lack of Employee Engagement, instead of the root cause.

Symptoms of engagement issues can include things like problems with safety, product quality, productivity, employee retention, equipment reliability, and financial performance. By analyzing and trying to fix these issues individually, you may be losing sight of the broader issue: a disengaged workforce that is simply collecting a paycheck and doesn’t care about the performance of the organization.

Perhaps the first step in understanding the issues in your organization’s culture is asking yourself how engaged your employees are and how things might change if they were more engaged.

Ask yourself: What does a great employee look like to you? Do they care about the company? How hard do they work? What’s in it for them?

What is Employee Engagement?

If CEOs could snap their fingers and have one thing, usually Employee Engagement would not be a high priority. Company leadership usually wants profits to increase, and usually, the path to get there is through enhanced productivity.

The problem is that productivity is affected by many facets, including machinery, production schedules, sales, product quality, resource planning, and so forth. So where to start? And not of these facets can be affected overnight simply by waving a magic wand or throwing money.

Change needs to be made through a process of continuous improvement, where issues and opportunities are identified, root causes are determined, projects are planned and executed, and the results are tested and verified. These changes require effort that will only be completed by motivated, enabled, and empowered employees.

So, if you executed a root cause analysis on why you cannot achieve your business goals, you might find that the “5th Why” is a lack of the culture required to make it happen.

Employee Engagement Defined

Ultimately, Employee Engagement is the degree to which your employees are invested in the pursuit of positive organizational outcomes. Their investment is manifested through their cognitive state (their thoughts), their emotions (their energy), and their behaviors (their actions).

Disengaged employees are drifting off, not excited to be at work, and dragging their feet on every task. Engaged employees do the opposite. They are continuously thinking about the system that they are working within and their role within it. They carry themselves with a positive attitude and look for opportunities to help their fellow employees.

When company leadership is asked what an engaged employee looks like, their answers usually sound like:

  • “They are invested in their work and think about how each action impacts the organization.”
  • “They are excited to be a part of a team and look out for everyone.”
  • “They are inquisitive and constantly interested in learning more about the company.”

To what degree would you say your frontline employees are absorbed in and enthusiastic about their work? What do their behavior and body language tell you about their level of engagement?

The 3 EEEs of Sustainable Frontline Employee Engagement

In this vein, we created the 3 E’s of Employee Engagement that outlines the areas that need to be addressed and measured in order to build a culture of excellence.

1. Empowered

Are your employees asked to be accountable for the success of your organization?

When imagining unengaged workers, usually the first thing that comes to mind is a person who doesn’t care about the outcomes of their task. They do what they need to do to get through the shift and grumble about things that interfere with them being able to do the least amount of work and go home when their shift is over.

It is a natural human instinct to choose the path of least resistance. Within your organization, this path usually includes “keeping their head down”, “not stepping on toes” and “staying in their lane”. This path can result in resentment and a feeling of irrelevance. Employees begin to buy into this notion that “Management doesn’t care what we think” and that notion can spread like wildfire across your organization.

Good organizations become great when they recognize the insights that can be derived from the frontline employees that spend their time on the floor with the equipment that makes your products and/or services. They are a wealth of intelligence that is waiting to be tapped. And all they are waiting for is permission.

The simplest way to combat this is to tell them “We care what you think”. However, actions speak louder than words.

Employee Engagement can only occur in an environment where frontline employees are accountable for the success of themselves, their teams, and the organization at large. Where employees are empowered to improve their work station and pay attention to what is going on around them and to speak up when they have an idea or when something doesn’t seem right.

Empowerment provides employees with permission to act. It is the gateway to Employee Engagement.

2. Energized

Are your employees motivated for going above and beyond?

Empowering your staff to help build a culture of excellence is the crucial first step but it does not guarantee that they will move forward. Leading horses to water does not guarantee they will drink. Staff need to also be excited and energized to take that step.

In order to build a culture of excellence, each employee will be asked to do additional work, which requires the investment of their thoughts, their emotions, and their actions. To willingly commit themselves to this extra work, your employees must be energized, emotionally invested, and motivated.

Unengaged employees resist work because they are not emotionally invested in the company, their community of co-workers, and the goals of the organization. This listless attitude can stem from a variety of sources. Staff can feel disenfranchised because they do not understand the larger picture of how their efforts support the larger goals of the organization. They can also feel that they are not benefiting in any way from the additional work required to build a culture of excellence. Also, they can feel that participation is not attainable or they lack the skills and knowledge required to make a difference. As a result, they choose to opt out of the culture and continue with their listless attitude.

In the past, organizations had more of an option to remove “bad apples” from the headcount, but it is getting harder for manufacturing organizations to hire employees so that option is less relevant today.

Ultimately, if you do not energize your employees, your culture will lack the willingness to affect change and staff will do the bare minimum to achieve the only reward that matters to them - the paycheck.

3. Enabled

Do your employees have the tools, skills, and resources they need to be successful?

If you have an empowered and energized staff, you are doing very well. But there is a good chance it will not be sustainable unless you provide them with easy access to the tools and resources they can use to be successful.

We work with many organizations that have enabled their staff and have found a way to make them motivated, but the excitement is short-lived because the tools they are using are inefficient and hard to use. This takes the “wind out of their sails” and kills momentum.

  • Paper forms are common momentum killers because they can be riddled with issues and inaccuracies, get misplaced, and are required to be physically transported around the facility.
  • Spreadsheets are generally inaccessible and manual input from paper forms can take hours.
  • Enterprise software, like ERPs and MES systems, can be overcomplicated and inaccessible to your frontline employees.

If your tools are inefficient or hard to access, staff will not want to participate and, eventually, your program will lose momentum.

Frontline Employee Engagement is a measure of how invested your frontline employees are in the growth and prosperity of your organization. If you change their investment level by enabling them, energizing them, and empowering them, you will reap the benefits of increased engagement.

Empower your staff with “bottom up” Operational Excellence tools. Allow staff to understand the value your organization is manufacturing and how it is delivered so that they can correct issues autonomously. Staff can submit suggestions, observations, and abnormality reports and watch the progress of them into site initiatives and improvement projects.

Energize your staff with personal goal tracking, gamification and automated reward points that they can redeem in your personalized rewards marketplace. Broadcast result KPIs and celebrate wins to keep staff engaged.

Enable your staff with instant access to modern software that is just as focused on Operational Excellence as it is on Employee Engagement. Weever makes it easy to collect data, track projects and view reports while staff can also review leaderboard, point totals and redeem rewards - all in one place.