staff engagement

How to engage an underperforming staff

M&R Holdings' Randy Daiter shares staff engagement tips
Monday, August 14, 2017
by Randy Daiter

Ever wonder how many in your workforce are actively engaged in their jobs? Well, the statistics may astound you. A 2017 Gallup report on staff engagement showed that 51 per cent of today’s employees have essentially “checked out” as they go about their day-to-day duties. And it gets worse: an additional 16 per cent are actively disengaged—meaning, not only are they uninterested in what they’re doing, but they actively distract and undermine the engagement of fellow employees. Combine those two groups and a staggering 67 per cent of your workforce is underperforming!

That means a mere 33 per cent of the workforce actually enjoys their job. Why do they enjoy their jobs? Because they feel motivated, respected and valued.

To this point, that same 2017 Gallup report revealed that only 21 per cent of employees strongly agreed that they were being managed in a way that motivated them to do outstanding work. If you’re a manager, you have a big challenge ahead of you. You need to figure out how to foster and cultivate a corporate culture that motivates people. After all, when we let our employees down, they in turn let our customers down, and that affects our business.

“Pulling” instead of “pushing”

Simply put, motivation is better achieved by “pulling” people by celebrating their strengths, versus “pushing” them to do things they don’t want to do. It’s the whole ‘square peg in a round hole” thing. You can’t force someone into somewhere they don’t fit. But you can foster strengths by celebrating individual differences and help people find the roles in which they can best use their talents. A 2009 Gallup poll showed that employees who felt their supervisors focused on their strengths had only a 1 in 100 chance of becoming actively disengaged at work. Meanwhile, those who felt their supervisor focused on their weaknesses, or felt ignored consistently, fell into the actively disengaged category.

Happier employees lead to higher employee retention, which in turn, attracts better talent as word about your great reputation begins to spread. Many of today’s big companies have it figured out. Yum!, (the company that owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC) has been praised for its ability to engage employees while defining a distinctive corporate culture. Southwest Airlines is another success story. Co-Founder and Former CEO Herb Kelleher had an interesting way of putting it: Employees come 1st and customers come 2nd.  Think about it: if you keep your employees happy, they’ll keep your customers happy.

At M&R, we saw our Net Promoter Scores go up year after year, once we adopted a “Pull vs. Push” strategy. Employees stayed with us longer, delivered a higher quality of service, and as a result, our customer satisfaction numbers improved year after year.

Creating your vision and environment

Your first step on the road to staff engagement is to create an inspiring and compelling roadmap of the future that clearly outlines your strategic vision, mission, values and purpose. After all, it’s hard to get employees working towards a common goal when there isn’t one readily in place. So start by analyzing your strengths and weaknesses, understand your core and distinct competencies and make sure they’re aligned with achieving your vision. Then consistently demonstrate your values with passion. Remember, we aren’t judged on our intentions but by our actions and behaviours.

Soliciting employee input

The best way to get staff buy-in to your vision and mission is by asking them to help bring it to life. This is a great example of pulling instead of pushing. You’re not dictating how staff should ask, but rather, asking them what they feel comfortable doing. By asking for staff feedback and recommendations, you’re acknowledging their skills and ideas and making them feel valued.

At M&R, we invited our staff to help formulate our Code of Conduct and Service Standards. We also regularly solicit feedback and recommendations from the team on issues, including: tenant needs and wants, Capex projects and priorities and ideas for tenant engagement. While this is specific to the real estate sector, involving staff can happen in a myriad of ways. More importantly, this process helps quickly identify which staff members are actively engaged. You can then decide whether those who are actively disengaged will fit into the corporate culture you are trying to build, if they would be best suited in a different role, or whether they should be outplaced in order to maximize company success.

Engaging and appreciating your employees

Sharing your collective vision and working together as a team to make decisions about how this vision and mission will be executed is critical. At M&R, we use staff newsletters, an employee portal, training sessions and staff appreciation events to share news about our vision and the progress we’re making together. Results can speak volumes. In our case, both employee and tenant retention numbers are consistently high, year after year. And the icing on the cake has been that FRPO (Federation of Rental-housing Providers of Ontario) has recognized our efforts by bestowing us with the Service Award of Excellence for the past two years in a row.

Which leads to the final point: we all know how valuable rewarding success can be. So think about implementing an employee recognition program through bonuses tied to reviews, contests in your newsletters or in other ways. And know that how you deal with failure can also speak volumes. After all, employees should be encouraged to take the risk to make a difference. A handful of forward-thinking companies actually offer an annual award for attempted improvements or innovations that result in failure! Why not turn a failed attempt into a positive and rewarding experience for that employee who was actively involved enough to try something new to improve your company?

At the end of the day, we’re all humans with similar basic needs. We want to feel valued and appreciated. Corporate culture is not about pushing someone to do something they don’t want to do, or to be someone they simply are not. Instead, it’s about pulling someone forward with respect, to explore their strengths. Doing so will make us all better in the long run.

Randy Daiter is Vice President, Residential Properties at M&R Property Management




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