Engage Your Employees Without Letting Them Drive the Bus, Says @TimSackett

Employee engagement is always a key topic because of its close connection to an organization’s ability to retain its workers. An organization that ignores its employees does so at its peril. But is there risk in relying too much on employee input when making business decisions?

Noted HR blogger and professional Tim Sackett says the answer is unequivocally “yes.” Sackett, a key contributor to Fistful of Talent who also serves as president of HRU Technical Resources, a $40 million IT and engineering contract staffing firm, appeared on my recent XpertHR podcast to share his outside-the-box perspectives on employee input issues.

Sackett began by making his thoughts clear that while it’s important to let employees have a voice, a business is not a democracy. “Sometimes businesses get in trouble when they say every opinion matters,” says Sackett. “No, it doesn’t. It actually doesn’t matter.”

To illustrate his point, Sackett cites Apple founder Steve Jobs. “He listened to himself, and that’s what made Apple so great,” notes Sackett. “Jobs had a very, very narrow group that he listened to and trusted. He didn’t care what the analysts were saying, and he didn’t care what the pundits were saying.” While Sackett acknowledges that may sound harsh, he asserts that if you have a great vision, you have to follow that.

But in an XpertHR webinar with me last year, another leading employee performance thought leader, David Lee, said too often “employees are taught not to care” by experiencing defeat again and again when they raise ideas.

Lee explained that managers are not always mindful of the human element when dealing with their employees, a failure that can lead both to a mass exodus and to an apathetic workforce.

Sackett did not disagree with Lee’s point, but noted that some opinions simply must be weighted more heavily than others. “There are some people who are really smart and are great performers, and I’m going to listen to those,” says Sackett. “If there’s somebody we know is a bad performer, I’m probably listening a little less, depending on the subject.”

Leaders who listen to every single opinion tend to come up with really vanilla products and services, according to Sackett. “When you take everyone’s opinion in, you start to get more and more watered down from what your original vision was,” he says. “I want to value the opinion of every employee who works for me, if they show me that I should value their opinion.”

At the same time, Sackett is keenly aware that everyone in modern society has a platform, whether it be Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook or something else, and he notes that employees are increasingly voicing themselves on these forums. That’s why he says that HR professionals need to educate their company’s leaders that relying on employee surveys for feedback doesn’t necessarily mean they have the pulse of their employees.

For more insights from Sackett on employee input, listen to our latest XpertHR podcast.