Organizational indifference occurs when employees no longer care about the company’s success. They’re simply working for a paycheck, doing only what it takes to not get fired. They’re not looking for opportunities that will help the organization thrive. Unfortunately, organizational indifference exists in companies of all sizes and in all industries. It hits the bottom line. No one is immune. Moving employees away from such indifference becomes a top priority. Corporate learning programs have an exciting opportunity to bring the strategic vision to life.
How much organizational indifference is in your company? What percentage of your employees come to work just to get a paycheck or to add the position to their resume? 10 percent? 25 percent? Maybe 75 percent? Realize that no matter what percentage you perceive, the reality is usually much greater. When you consider all the labor costs involved in recruiting, hiring, training and paying benefits, having even one organizationally indifferent person on your team is unacceptable.
When you rid your team of organizational indifference, your employees are eager to express new ideas and genuinely want to help clients. They are excited to come to work because they know their contributions matter and that they have a definite purpose in the organization. As a result, customers enjoy doing business with the company, thus increasing revenue and profitability. Additionally, operating expenses and turnover decrease as employees take a more active role in the company. Productivity soars as each employee strives to make a positive impact on the bottom line. It’s a win-win situation.
Think the above scenario couldn’t possibly come true in your organization? Think again. It is possible to overcome organizational indifference and transform your team into a unified workforce with an entrepreneurial spirit—willing to seize new opportunities.
Before scheduling learning experiences and training sessions, it’s important to analyze where your company is on the indifference scale. Measure the gaps that exist in the four essential areas of organizational communications, skills, motivation and empowerment. Find out where you are compared to where you want to be.
Communicating the Organization’s Vision
The company’s vision is more than words on paper. It’s a lofty goal of where you want the company to be and how you want the community to perceive the organization. While the business owners and senior-level executives usually know and strive to uphold the company’s vision, frontline employees typically have only a vague idea of the vision and cannot fully grasp its importance. This is unfortunate, because if you want a unified, entrepreneurial spirit to take hold in your organization, your team must understand and believe the vision you set forth. Your employees can only operate at their best when they have a reason to do so and seize opportunities to help the enterprise succeed.
When your employees know and embrace the vision, they’ll have a newfound purpose for their everyday activities. They’ll have a sense of the “big picture” and will be able to understand how their actions, routine as they may be, contribute to the greater goal. Studies show that people want to do their best; they want to excel, to be involved and to take an active leadership role in their job. However, they can only do that when they believe that their contributions matter and they see value in their actions.
Your employees need to know the company’s vision, what it means and how their actions contribute to it. If they are not fully on board, create communications learning experiences.
Use Technology Tools Effectively
Most employees know how to “get around” in various computer programs, and they know how to create a sales piece, a spreadsheet or a brochure. However, many of those people could reduce the amount of time they spend on their tasks if they simply knew the productivity skills for the given technology. The fact is that no matter how much you invest in technology and no matter how many training sessions you send your people to, you’ll never know if your employees are using the technology effectively unless you measure their performance. You must know where your people are in terms of their technological skills as well as where you want them to be.
Ask yourself, “How effective is the technology training we’ve done?” “Do employees really get their tasks done in the shortest amount of time?” and “How much downtime do employees have as a result of equipment malfunctions?” Most company leaders find that their employees actually have very little understanding of the skills that would increase their productivity and make their documents better.
To uncover the truth behind the technology in your office and your employees’ skill level, you might consider having an outside consultant track your team’s productivity and downtime. Also, have the consultant question your employees about their comfort level with various technologies so your team can tell you where they want additional training. The more proficient your employees are with the technology tools they have available, the more capable they’ll be of serving clients and creating results.
Give Praise and Recognition Routinely
For an organization to thrive and for employees to feel valued, there must be a company-wide environment of praise and recognition. An ideal environment is not only one where management praises and recognizes employees, but also where employees praise and recognize each other and the management team. Corporate learning initiatives are in a unique position to support these efforts. Helping team members learn how to praise and encourage each other opens unlimited creative channels.
The need for this encouragement and recognition is not limited to frontline employees. CEOs and senior managers must lead by example. They should be able to answer these questions: Have you given praise and/or recognition to your employees in the last seven days? Do your employees know what is expected of them? Do you give your employees opportunities to learn and grow? If answers to these questions are negative, you need to give greater focus to your praise and recognition efforts. Communications training helps them learn how to use avenues where employees can receive recognition, such as company newsletters, postings on bulletin boards or even handwritten thank-you notes from the management team. Show the employees they’re valued, and they in turn will value the company.
Allow Employees to Exert Authority
Many company leaders talk about empowering their employees, but when it comes time for employees to exert their authority in a situation, they quickly learn that empowerment does not exist. That’s because too many company executives fail to realize that empowerment is more than assigning authority; rather, empowerment is a three-fold process that builds trust between the employees and the corporation.
First, when employees are empowered, they should know precisely how much latitude they have in any given situation. They don’t have to second-guess themselves when they make decisions because managers have detailed what each person can do. Second, when empowered employees have reached the limit of their authority, they should know the steps to take to find out additional information or to make suggestions. Finally, empowered employees are not afraid to think outside the box or offer ideas because they know they have management’s support and that the senior executives want their input. They feel that the company values their ideas, and they strive to devise new ways to help the organization perform better.
Learning sessions need to reinforce that fact that empowerment is a two-way street. It’s a shared responsibility between the employees and the managers that instills trust and responsibility in every team member.
When your employees know what the organization is about, how to use their technology effectively, how to instill motivation in their teams and what their empowerment processes are, you lay the groundwork for eliminating organizational indifference. And when employees care about the organization and are excited about their work, they’ll solve more problems, serve customers better and contribute to the company’s success significantly, increasing bottom-line profits. It’s the combination of these four elements that moves the organization forward and unifies people with the entrepreneurial spirit that leads to long-lasting results.
Linda Keefe is a speaker, consultant and CEO of Shared Results International, a business focused on helping companies achieve faster growth and higher productivity. She provides solutions that allow companies to overcome organizational indifference, communication problems and technological skill deficiencies. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Organizational Indifference Quiz
To learn how much organizational indifference exists in your company, have your employees anonymously answer the following questions:
On a scale of 1-10 (10 high), rate how well you:
- Understand the organization’s mission, vision and goals.
- Understand the organization’s competitive advantage.
- Know and support the organization’s core values.
- Initiate actions that could benefit the organization.
- Respond to customer needs in an exemplary way.
- Know when you have authority to take action on behalf of the organization—and do it.
- Use the technology tools you have available in an effective manner.
- Feel and act as if your opinions count.
- Routinely give and receive praise and recognition.
- Enjoy what you are doing.
Total Score: ______
90-100 – Vibrant workforce
75-89 – Positive environment
40-74 – Complacency reigns
1-39 – Serious problems