By: Pete Tosh
The Focus Group

Do your front-line employees need a jump start?

jumpercablesEver wonder why your front-line employees are not more engaged? Research has proven that employees’ feeling of value and appreciation by their immediate supervisors is the primary determinant of engagement. Supervisors with dead batteries aren’t able to jump start anyone.

If your company’s CEO heard that your  best customer was considering a switch to a competitor, he or she would undoubtedly react in short order. Isn’t it equally important to react to a potential cause of such a problem before it occurs? Customer loyalty can only be achieved when employees provide high quality products and services.  Disengaged employees can be a real liability, but engaged employees are a  significant asset.  Is it time for your company to make an employee engagement investment?

Research Affirms the Importance of Employee Engagement

More than 100 studies having affirmed the connections between engaged employees and organizational success.  You are probably already familiar with many of the organizational performance benefits of increased employee engagement.  They include sustained improvements in productivity, quality, customer satisfaction & profitability.

In a study involving 9 million employees, Aon Hewitt found a strong correlation between an organization’s degree of employee engagement and it’s sales growth, operating income, and shareholder returns. The State of the American Workforce report recently found that companies with nine engaged employees per disengaged employee (90% engagement) experienced on average 147% higher earnings per share than their competitors.

Increased employee engagement is both the fuel for and a leading indicator of an organization’s financial performance. Engaged employees aren’t just a “nicety.” They represent a competitive advantage. The question to ask is not whether your company should focus on employee engagement, but how to instill employee engagement within your company’s culture and achieve your organization’s true potential. There is much to be gained by meeting the few core employee needs and enabling them to bring their full capabilities to the workplace.

A proven, three-step approach

Here’s what employee engagement looks like within a company’s culture:

  • At 35,000 feet – Your leadership team defines your organization’s engagement strategy and associated objectives.
  • At 15,000 feet – Your managerial and supervisory team delivers on those objectives through their interactions with front-line employees.
  • At the ground level – Your front-line employees are able to voice their needs, expectations and suggestions.

Creating a culture of engagement requires understanding and accountability at each level. Changes begin with executive leadership and flow downward through the organization.

Step #1

Your leadership team defines your organization’s engagement strategy and ignites its execution. Leadership and employee engagement are two sides of the same coin. Your leaders are in the best position to determine and  then to communicate:

  • why employee engagement is significant to your organization.
  • what are the components of  your organization’s engagement strategy.
  • how your engagement strategy will be implemented. This includes the roles of your leadership team, supervisors, and front-line employees.

Engagement flows downward through an organization, so the impetus for engagement begins at the top.  Managers with highly engaged leaders are nearly 40% more engaged than managers who have leaders with below average engagement. Leaders must hold managers accountable and should be sensitive to a ‘soft yes’ response to employee engagement, when supervisors and managers agree in principle only. When leaders don’t insure execution, organizations will always focus on the operational issues of the day.

Step #2

Your managers and supervisors deliver through their interactions with front-line employees. The quality of these interactions is both a pre-condition to and the energy behind employee performance.  Supervisors and managers serve as catalysts.

Satisfying the few, core workplace needs of their direct reports is a minimum requirement. Every interaction a supervisor has with an employee is an opportunity to engage and stimulate discretionary effort – thus adding to the bottom line. Engagement is built on dialogue that causes employees to feel their supervisor values them personally and recognizes the impact of their performance on the organization’s goals. Daily, positive employee touch points are the basis of the model that effective managers follow.

Step #3

Your company’s employee engagement strategy should involve both formal and informal opportunities to listen to front-line employees. It can be difficult for leaders to obtain an objective view of front-line engagement – how front-line employees view their relationships with and performance of their supervisors (essentially whether these supervisors are engaging or disengaging their teams). Because employee engagement is a leading indicator of financial performance, these metrics are extremely valuable. Employee Engagement Surveys,  if conducted formally, objectively & with employees’ responses segmented by supervisor, can provide leaders with actionable information.

Ever wonder why your frontline employees are not more engaged? An employee engagement culture must begin with executive leadership and flow downward through managers and supervisors. Supervisors with dead batteries can’t jump start anyone. Take an objective look at your company. Is it time for a re-charge?

To read more about Employee Engagement, download GEA’s free white paper – Employee Engagement: Facts Every Leader Needs to Know


Pete ToshPete Tosh is co-founder and President of The Focus Group, a management consulting firm specializing in maximizing the achievement of corporate strategies via employee behavior. Pete can be reached by phone at 478-746-6891 or by email at