The Atlas

I have the materials and equipment to do my job right

Today I want to discuss the second of Gallup's Elements of Employee Engagement: Do you have the materials and equipment to do your job right?

As someone who has spent her entire adult life implementing technology tools that were intended to remove friction from various processes, this one is a particularly painful topic because more often than not, the decision-makers driving the funding and implementation of systems and tools are confident that they are giving their employees something valuable, while all too often, the employees vehemently disagree.

All too often -- just like the first of Gallup's questions, Do you know what is expected of you at work? -- this one is taken for granted. No one even asks the question, and not because they are afraid of the answer, but because they assume that if the answer was NO that someone would speak up.

Many years ago, I worked in a job where we were responsible for building customer self-service solutions for the field. However, it wasn't until the IT team went out to see them in action that someone noticed that there was a specific use case that rendered the technology TOTALLY useless -- and when that happened, the Customer Service desk would be completely crushed.

The IT team was in shock that no one had ever told us about this scenario -- which happened with pretty consistent regularity. The team in the field responded with, "That's just the way it's always been. We didn't know it wasn't deliberate."

Good people who want to perform well are often creative and resourceful in the face of limitations. But they also often just get so used to dealing with those limitations, that it doesn't occur to them to ask for something else. (And, to be fair, in hostile environments, they are often afraid of asking for something because they don't want to be seen as someone who rocks the boat.)

It is a leader's job to ask the question: Do you have what you need to do your job properly?

And, of course, you can't change or fix everything at a corporate level. But knowing what is in your team's way, acknowledging it's impact and then actively working on ways to make it better are essential to your relationship with them.

In one of my most stifling corporate environments, I actually had to hire a full-time employee just to help the rest of my team navigate bloated processes, complex systems, and an assortment of rules and permissions that made all of our lives downright painful on a daily basis. Certainly, that's not always an option, but in this case, it did help everyone in very practical ways, while also helping me identify ways in which the process was hurting our ability to be effective and give meoptions for escalation.

Yes, in a perfect world, it's great when our team's come to us and say, "I need XYZ. Can you help?" But the reality is that, more often than not, the shortest distance for them is to come up with a workaround to get their job done today. The trouble is that those workarounds are often exhausting and demotivating over time.

And even worse, in a work environment driven by change (that always comes with new systems and tools), I almost never see environments where new solutions are being implemented to simply life. They are always making things more complicated.

So start by asking, and by challenging the status quo -- and encouraging your team to do the same. As one of my favorite sayings goes, Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid.

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