Updated: January 10, 2011 12:16 IST

Connect with the front line employees

D. Murali
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If you think that it is the immediate boss who has the most influence over how much discretionary effort an employee is willing to apply towards job, you may be wrong. The top single driver of discretionary effort is “senior management’s sincere interest in employee well being,” found ‘Global Workforce Study’ which covered nearly 90,000 workers from eighteen countries, report Harry Paul and Ross Reck in ‘Destination Work! Getting people excited about coming to work and working hard’ (Westland).

What CEOs can do

As a front line worker, nothing is more exciting than to have the company CEO or some senior level manager come through your department and pat you on the back and either saying ‘thank you’ or something like, ‘Let me take over your job for a while, while you take a break,’ or having him or her working right along side you for a while talking to you about whatever, the authors note.

A best practice that they speak of is to require every manager to spend one-third of their time out among their employees – not pointing out mistakes or giving orders, but working right along side them.

Set the right model

Team leaders, supervisors and managers tend to model the behaviour of senior management; therefore, if they see the managers above them positively interacting with front line employees, they are far more likely to do it themselves, reason Paul and Reck.

“On the other hand, if team leaders, supervisors and managers don’t see the senior managers above them positively interacting with front line employees, they eventually conclude that it must not be all that important so they stop doing it. When this happens, employees pull back on the amount of discretionary effort they’re willing to put into their jobs and productivity takes a big hit.”

Get your hands dirty

A chapter titled ‘Stepping outside the comfort zone’ rues that many people, once they get promoted into the executive or managerial ranks, mistakenly assume that they are all done getting their hands dirty – doing the nitty-gritty day-to-day menial jobs on the front line. Citing a recent study discussed in ‘Fast Company’ magazine, the authors instruct that the opposite is true in highly successful companies.

Doing front line work not only keeps you in touch with the ‘nuts and bolts’ of your business and your customers, but it also lets the front line employees know that you understand how hard it is to do their job, observe Paul and Reck. “This sends a very clear message that you, as the manager, respect what they do. This not only energises the front line employees, it greatly increases the amount of respect they have for you as their manager.”

Imperative read for every manager.


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