Helen Martin: Bosses! You need to listen to your frontline staff

wisdom: An experienced office cleaner knows the best value products better than their manager
wisdom: An experienced office cleaner knows the best value products better than their manager
0
Have your say

BETTER business management and leadership of employees could increase productivity in Scotland by ten to 30 per cent, according to an economic strategy board, as featured on Reporting Scotland last week.

True – but it’s not news. It confirms something businesses were learning prior to the financial crisis striking ten years ago.

Before that, I worked in an HR department launching an employee engagement plan, something then growing across all sectors.

It was a major management exercise, nothing about wages and all about staff “happiness”. The core was employees scoring how much they agreed they had the equipment and resources to do their job, were shown praise and appreciation of good performance, had career development opportunities, respect, and the opportunity to suggest improvements to any aspect of a business, along with many other facets of their work.

It involved annual surveys of all employees with their team and manager identified, but their personal identity was not included. If a team response highlighted an issue, their manager would help them run their own project to a) prove it and b) submit a solution to senior management ... who were obliged to consider it, and would often gain from it.

READ MORE: Helen Martin: Don’t believe the political waffle on NHS

The team manager belonged to another team – leaders of the same rank in the same section of business. And so it passed on, right up to company directors who formed a team answerable to the MD.

Yes, it’s a bit complicated to see the overall picture. But in short, the employee-engagement process offers more satisfaction and pride for staff, and a better assessment of team managers, their quality of leadership and their ability to listen to and utilise staff ideas and expertise, rather than just impose their own.

A wee microcosm example of that might be an employed office cleaner, experienced, aware of elements such as the lowest footfall time to clean floors or loos etc, the best value products and kit, and any polish or fluid that would best preserve special surfaces or features. They know more about such things than an MD, or operations manager. They shouldn’t be made to work with ineffective or damaging kit, taking the blame for poor results. Their input and suggestions can be helpful to improve things. Senior managers often don’t know much about front-line work.

READ MORE: Helen Martin: The future of shopping: ghost towns and online hell

Feeling involved, respected and valued statistically contributes as much or even more to an individual’s productivity than higher wages ... at least that was the case a decade ago before austerity hit and so many people struggled financially. In management terms, staff engagement fell off the priority list with the recession when the all-consuming goal was cutting costs, focussing only on revenue, basic business survival, pushing employees to longer hours and minimal or no rises.

Many staff across all sectors feel exploited and under-paid while fat cats grab millions and assume any success is purely down to them. As companies shrink, career development and prospects are disappointingly rare. Good managers express appreciation and praise. Bad ones are only concerned about meeting targets, not supporting their team.

Now there’s a need for Scotland (and the rest of the UK) to rack up productivity – and thus wages. Perhaps it’s time once more to recognise staff engagement as a necessity, rather than a nicey-nicey, luxury exercise.

P1 testing could help make Scottish education great again

PROTESTS against Primary 1 tests in schools are ridiculous. Five-year-old new-starts probably regard a test as a game or competition – subject to the exercise being run calmly and positively rather than scarily.

Without that first foundation test, how can the following tests in Primary 4, 7 and S3 measure pupil progress?

Primary tests were common, even weekly, back in the day when Scottish education was the best in the world. This is one tiny step towards reclaiming that reputation.

And it’s interesting that, it being part of the SNP’s policy, the biggest critics are Tories. Education, like so many other essential services, is being treated as a political football.

Violent and cruel sheep shearers should get tough sentence
THE National Farmers Union and SSPCA are investigating a bunch of violent, cruel and abusive sheep shearers working on Scottish farms. The horrific film footage may boost vegetarianism, but also cause wool revulsion and damage Scottish exports. Such sick psychos deserve severe sentences.