I am working with a couple of companies that have a massive divide between “them” and “us” – managers and workers. A company’s biggest asset is its employees, and its biggest expense is labour. We need to understand this gap and bridge it to move forward.
In our workplace culture audits, common complaints by management of their employees include a lack of motivation and commitment, tardiness and absenteeism, bringing problems to work, not caring for their tools or their workspace, not caring about the success of the business and having no ambition to improve.
On the flip side, when the workforce is given a voice, we hear that they are treated with disrespect, must fight for their remuneration, get no recognition for long service or good performance, work in unpleasant environments and are generally afraid of losing the job they hate.
Companies are relying on employees, who are resentful, to make their business a success. As business owners and management, you need to lead the charge to bridge the divide between managers and workers and engage your employees in a meaningful way to address this disconnect.
Firstly, hire the right people. Unskilled workers are hired with little or no process. The less educated and skilled your employees are, the more stringent your HR policies and recruitment needs to be. Most of my clients are experiencing challenges because their team simply doesn’t share the same values and work ethic. You can teach anyone a new skill if they have a great attitude. Taking time to engage with a potential employee will be worth it in the long run.
CARE – Communication – Awareness – Recognition – Engagement
Business owners and leaders simply need to CARE more about their workers.
Workers complain that they are not treated with respect, get shouted at, spoken down to or ignored. Many of our workplace culture audits reveal a desperate plea for management to greet the workers! Such a small thing that could make such a big difference. The other common gripe is unclear communication. Apart from the obvious language barrier, workers are often unsure of their job descriptions, and unsure of the task they have been given. They are also too afraid to ask for clarification for fear of being seen as incompetent.
Leadership can bridge the divide between managers and the workers by taking the time to understand their circumstances. In South Africa in particular, most low skilled employees come from desperate living environments. They support big families with sad circumstances, commute long hours to and from work and work just as hard as management with much less to show for it. Awareness of their circumstances and what is sitting at the back of their minds while they are doing their tasks may lead to a more sensitive and effective approach with the team.
I can write the script. Whenever we conduct a workplace culture audit in a production environment, the issue of lack of recognition for long service comes up. As a business owner, you really shouldn’t want to have employees doing the same job forever. They may have experience, but it breeds complacency and resentment. Offer training to grow your employees into more productive roles. Being thanked is another issue. Because unskilled workers often do routine tasks, there is nothing “stand out” to prompt appreciation of a job well done or a good idea. It is sometimes more difficult to do boring routine tasks than generate new ideas – give thanks and praise to those who get it done.
The major issue is the disconnect between managers and workers. The majority of the workforce often has no idea what is happening at the company, how the company is doing, and if the clients are happy. Many of our workplace culture audits reveal that workers at all levels want their own targets and objectives for the week, so they too can feel a sense of accomplishment. They want to understand what’s happening in the business. Seeing the end product of work in-situ is motivating. In addition, research has shown that the mere presence of management in a production space motivates workers, as they realise the importance of the role they are playing in the bigger picture.
It’s one of the toughest challenges in a business where the skill set is so vast. Team challenges are compounded in these circumstances and a different level of leadership is required to lead a team of unskilled workers successfully compared to leading highly skilled and self motivated managers. You don’t have to do it on your own. Give me a call and I’ll help you build the bridge between managers and workers.