Organizational Competence in the Workplace

Today we’re going to talk about the conundrum we’re facing with Gallup engagement surveys, IBM’s employee experience survey and NBO’s leadership survey – what’s causing some of the disconnect between the individuals in the organization and the organization’s goals and objectives.

The first part, from my standpoint, is a little history. I went to IBM first-line manager school back in the 70’s, when IBM was at the heyday and the genus of its power. When I went there, I was a brand new first line manager, had just a couple of people reporting to me, and I learned interpersonal relations, feedback, coaching, how do you influence people, how to communicate effectively (one-on-one, small groups), how to make a speech, and how to evaluate and do performance management etc. It was great! It helped me immeasurably in just working with the few people I had to work with, and as I went up the organization, helping me to relate better and to work better with the people I was responsible for.

Now back to these surveys that all show there’s a disconnect. The single digits and low double digits on engagement and people being not actively disengaged, which is not engage with the organization. They blame it mostly on they don’t know the goals and objectives, the strategy, but I think there’s a lot more to it than that.

Peter Drucker, who in the 1990’s as a guru, brought up the term “knowledge worker” and said no longer are people somewhat interchangeable like pieces of equipment, people now are thinkers. They’re skilled. They had look for responsibility and empowerment. They are doing client-facing activities whether they’re frontline or backline. They’re involved in budgets, involved in project planning, involved in becoming not just physical but virtual team members. They’re parts of a community, they need to share ideas. They need to communicate up and down the organization at every level. With this flattening of organizations has come the virtual organization and the flat organization, which changed the dynamics dramatically.

So today with increased empowerment and increased expectation for contribution, you start to ask, why is this disengagement happening. There are three reasons that come out of virtually all surveys.

One is the capabilities or competencies to use the vernacular of the time of individuals that they don’t have the competencies to do all of these soft skills – communication skills, listening skills, influencing skills, feedback, coaching skills.

Secondly, they have never really been trained in how to communicate up and down the organization. There’s a tremendous disconnect in the organization’s communication from the frontline up and from the top of the organization down.

Lastly, with knowledge workers, they have a much higher expectation of feedback, coaching and mentoring. So when you look at your talent management programs, I’ll bet those three subjects are key – feedback, coaching, mentoring. Everybody needs it.

Today, when you look at your subject matter for your management development, leadership training or professional staff training, always look at these subjects: Am I giving them interpersonal skills? Am I helping them to communicate more effectively? Am I helping them to become better influencers of budgets, projects and programs? Am I helping them to learn how to communicate one-on-one and one-in-meetings so that their ideas can be shared? There are so many subjects that we need to train everybody on for the organization to work effectively, top to bottom, to improve the organization’s health and ability to succeed.