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Engagement—We’re Talking ’Bout Engagement?
By Chuck Mulidore
Basketball Hall of Fame player Allen Iverson once famously scoffed about practice: “We talkin’ ’bout practice, man. I mean, how silly is that? We talkin’ ’bout practice.” As the COVID-19 pandemic spread through our country and the Postal Service, NAPS Headquarters was notified on May 11, 2020, that, due to COVID-19, Postal Pulse surveys would be delayed. Then the plan was to begin the surveys again Aug. 4 through Sept. 4.
In light of that, I would substitute the words “engagement” for “practice” in Iverson’s famous diatribe. “Engagement, we’re talkin’ ’bout engagement. How silly is that?” When has the Postal Pulse survey really made you feel engaged or, even better, when have you felt your concerns as elicited on the surveys have mattered? Certainly, many of the new processes now rolling out from L’Enfant Plaza are not designed to engage employees, but have created fear for the survival of this essential agency. So, I thought I would give the USPS a lesson on engaged employees from Gallup, the very ones who administer the Postal Pulse survey.
Historically, the U.S. Postal Service has ranked at or near the bottom in engagement scores since the inception of the Postal Pulse surveys. Yet, according to Gallup, engaged employees are an organization’s strongest asset. In times of disruption, this is even truer.
According to Gallup, engaged employees consistently outperform their colleagues by solving new problems, innovating and creating new customers. Gallup recommends companies prioritize engaging employees to create sustained growth. So here, according to Gallup, are a few ways to accomplish that in the coronavirus age:
1. Maintain clear and consistent communication. During this time of upheaval, employees have more on their minds than day-to-day activities, which can cause them to lose focus. To keep them grounded at work, maintain a constant and open line of communication. This allows employees to keep productivity high and reassures them during an uncertain period.
2. Create connection with employees. Laurie Schultz, president and CEO of Galvanize, a Canadian software as a service company, kept a CEO diary she shared daily with employees for the first three months of the outbreak. In the diary, she detailed her perspective on the business landscape, as well as anecdotes about how the outbreak was affecting her personally. Schultz said, “People want to feel safe and secure. Daily, authentic and human communication allows you to build trust—reassuring people through regular check-ins—rather than having them fill in the blanks.”
3. Upskill your employees. Successful upskilling, or reskilling, focuses on innovation and is seen as both a technology and a human capital investment. Mohamed Kande, PwC’s (Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand) U.S. and global advisory leader, explained, “When it comes to innovation, it can’t come just from leadership, it comes from everybody.” Kande also recommended looking into new technologies for training, such as virtual reality, which were found to improve employees’ confidence in new skills by 340%.
4. Learn to lead with empathy. Unhealthy stress can wreak havoc on everyone, inhibit productivity and lead to detached employees. “When an employee is showing signs they’re struggling in some way, the best thing a manager can do is encourage them to discuss any fears or concerns, empathize with what they’re experiencing and help them outline what needs to be done to address the challenges head-on,” said Billie Hartless, chief Human Resources officer of Mitel, a Canadian telecommunications company. “This is what good humans do for each other and it strengthens the employee-manager relationship, which is essential to fostering long-term engagement and high performance.”
5. Redeploy your workforce to give customers more value. Redeploying your workforce is one way to engage employees. Yet you need to be strategic in how you do this. For instance, you should focus on redeploying employees to give more value to your customers. PwC’s Kande explained, “The first step is determining how value is defined for each customer. For instance, is value related to lower cost? Is it related to a more holistic set of services or better experience? When value is defined, decisions can be made to positively impact customers and deploy talent in areas that will drive change in specific areas and for the organization as a whole.”
According to Gallup, by following these tips to engage your workforce, you can improve the productivity and profitability of your organization. The key is to come back to providing consistent communication, improving manager engagement and offering new opportunities to learn. Always remember to put your people before profit. As Galvanize’s Schultz shared, “Our focus has been on employees first, customer retention second and then financials on the belief that the first two will lead to success on the financial front.”
There you have it, U.S. Postal Service. Follow those concepts laid out by Gallup and the entire Postal Pulse survey could measure actual engagement and a meaningful course of future success: Success based on growth, positivity and true engagement versus fear, miscommunication and cutting service. I could not think of a better course of action for our new Postmaster General. So, yeah, let’s talk ’bout engagement.