Make staff part of the team

Employer obligations

By Alexandra Economou  

Workplace managers must engage every staff member and ensure they feel part of the team, says commercial law firm Finlaysons.

A failure to do so could result in employees feeling alienated from their colleagues.

Workplace partner Grant Archer cites the recent stashed cash affair in which public servant Kate Lennon transferred $6 million to a trust account without authorisation.

He says this is prime example of what can occur when a staff member, or team of employees, is “excluded from the collective”.

The drive to succeed can be stronger than the desire to fit into a workplace, he says.

“It appears in that case that not enough was done to integrate a top performer into the culture of the whole organisation, (instead) leaving her to her own devices,” he says.

“Although a brilliant performer with an incredible drive to succeed, it seems she lost touch with her place in the bigger picture and, instead, focused on the success of her own department.

“(This) ultimately led to her cutting corners to maintain her success and not informing management of what she was doing.”

Mr Archer says a 2001 article by Paul Levy, published in the Harvard Business Review, led to the phrase the “Nut Island Effect” being coined.

The story was about a Boston waste treatment centre that became disconnected from the wider organisation, leading to a “calamitous” environmental incident. “Often management makes a decision to assign a vital role to an individual because of their identified talent and gives them a great deal of autonomy to perform that role,” he says.

“If an individual or a team member is rarely involved in external practices and perspectives, they can feel taken for granted.

“Management often compounds their mistakes by assuming (a person’s) silence means that everything is okay.”

The solution for managers, he believes, is to continually engage with all team members, even the “high-performers”.

He suggests there are several ways to achieve this, such as:

INSTALLING whole of business performance measures aligned with the business’s strategic outcomes. Employees can then understand the bigger picture and feel a part of it.

BRINGING managers at all levels, including chief executives and general managers, together to develop an identity and a presence around their areas of responsibility.

GETTING some broader organisational investment from staff members. For example, put them on external committees related to areas such as occupational health and safety.

ROTATING staff members. Ensure that all employees, even “brilliant leaders”, are given new challenges every three to four years.

Tips to engage staff:
* Take leaders on tours around company to get to know all staff.
* Listen to any problems staff raise to connect them to the greater organisation.
* Ensure staff are part of the culture by bringing isolated workers into teams and judge their work by the same standard.
* Rotate leaders to encourage fresh thinking and prevent bad habits being formed.

Article from The Advertiser, December 2010.


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