Most CIOs and IT managers are tasked with overseeing more IT workers than ever before, and their direct reports are often more geographically dispersed.
We know the optimal number of direct reports for any manager is between six and 12, according to Hal Gregersen, executive director of the MIT Leadership Center, in Business Insider.
Business is also being transformed today by millennials, who now make up 53 percent of the U.S. workforce. They expect a constant, authentic feedback loop with leadership. If millennials sense that their company does not respect their values and expectations, they are quick to seek work at a different company.
Another factor for managers involves the blurring lines between our work lives and personal lives. Many younger employees are likely to deploy apps from their personal lives for job purposes, such as Dropbox or Box for file sharing. Similarly, employees who depend on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for their social connections want the same close contact with their bosses and colleagues at work.
Employees generally work on the front lines with customers, and they are closest to ongoing flaws in the business; yet they don’t have a simple mechanism for sharing that knowledge. At many companies, employees are even afraid or discouraged to speak up in staff meetings. So how can a manager effectively understand or manage a staff of 15, 20 or more direct reports?
At most companies, employees share their opinions with bosses through emails, town hall meetings, skip-level lunches or bi-annual staff surveys. Yet none of these methods are very accessible or effective. As a result, more companies are implementing weekly pulse surveys, which are a step in the right direction, but even weekly surveys don’t provide the social interaction and dynamic content that many employees want.
Employee involvement can be defined as “the direct participation of staff to help an organization fulfill its mission and meet its objectives by applying their own ideas, expertise and efforts towards solving problems and making decisions,” according to Robert Bullock, a management consultant with Scontrino-Powell and a specialist in industrial-organizational psychology.
The key here is giving your workforce the ability to apply their own ideas in their jobs. Bullock says that applied organizational researchers have identified multiple positive advantages of employee involvement initiatives. These benefits include substantially improved employee well-being; a greater sense of empowerment, job satisfaction, creativity, commitment and motivation; as well as improved employee retention and productivity across industries.
Understand employees to drive involvement
For an employee involvement process to be effective, several factors are necessary, according to Bullock. He says employees need to be given the authority to participate in substantive decisions. They also need incentives to participate, either implicit or explicit.
One emerging communications strategy involves new crowdsourcing technologies that allow employees to use their smartphones to vote on shared priorities. They can also brainstorm the best solutions to their biggest problems as a group. In this way, employees become more empowered and engaged.
It’s no wonder that the more management attempts to communicate, the more employees expect real communication. Why is this? Because asking for feedback isn’t the same thing as acting on the feedback. This is why CIOs and IT leaders must be willing to take action on crowdsourced decisions or survey results from their employees.
If you are not ready to act on what your employees tell you, reconsider the idea of a crowdsourcing session or survey. Organizations are better off not asking for employee ideas than asking and not acting on the results.
Finally, take the time to truly understand your employees’ pain. The word “pain” is fraught with negative connotations, especially in the context of the workplace. But how many times have you felt or witnessed true emotional pain at your company when deadlines are looming or goals are far from being reached? The reality is that pain happens at all levels of an organization. The only way to solve that pain is to engage the people who experience it and help them devise a workable solution.
Brian Anderson is chief marketing officer at POP. He has over 25 years of global marketing experience in technology, business to business, and business to consumer markets. He has a proven track record of success in branding, revenue growth, M&A, IPO, as well as multiple key marketing disciplines.