The Right Tools Make the Right Stuff

In 1998, the Gallup organization culminated a giant research project that identified and measured elements of worker engagement most tied to the bottom line–things such as sales growth, productivity and customer loyalty.    They found there’s a clear link between employee engagement and financial performance.

After hundreds of focus groups and thousands of interviews with employees in a variety of industries, Gallup came up with the Q12, a 12-question survey that identifies strong feelings of employee engagement. Results from the survey show a strong correlation between high scores and superior job performance.

Amont the 12 questions is one that may seem particularly obvious, but often goes missed: 

Do you have the materials and equipment you need to do your work right?

I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of conversations that I’ve had with people who’ve dealt with this basic issue.

  • The person who showed up on their first day to work, and there was no place for them to sit.
  • The person who showed up on their first day of work, and no one there knew they were coming, what their role was supposed to be, or who they were supposed to report to.
  • The person who was hired, showed up for the first day, and the person that hired them was no longer working there, and hadn’t let anyone know they were coming.
  • The new hire with a desk, but no computer.   Because of “systems issues”, the computer didn’t arrive for 6 weeks.

What would you think of your new employer if one of these had happened to you?

It isn’t just the newbies that get stuck without the proper tools.  It happens to old timers too–in all sorts of organizations—profit and non-profit.

I remember the time I was leading a group of volunteers in a fundraising drive for a nonprofit.   They had come in to make phone calls for a couple of hours.

For this fund drive, we had just a few landlines, and the majority of the volunteers were using cellphones.

A number of the volunteers were elderly, and didn’t have their own cellphones. 

At one point, we had so many volunteers that our phone and cellphone supply was running short.  So, trying to improvise in the moment, I handed my blackberry to one of the volunteers.  I explained where the numbers were on the crowded QWERTY keypad, and let her loose.

About 4 minutes later, I heard her shouting into the phone:

Hello?  Hello!  Do you speak English?  I don’t know what  you’re saying!  No.  No!  Don’t you speak English?  Where do you live?

I ran over and asked her to hand me the phone.

I looked at the LCD display.  

I held the phone to my ear.

I said, “Bonjour?”

A woman’s voice replied back, “Oui?”

I said, “Excuse-moi, Madame, J’ai fait une erreur”.

I quickly hung up.

The volunteer had called France. 

I got the cellphone bill to prove it the next month.

Do you have the materials and equipment you need to do your work right?

If you’re a leader, it’s a questions worth making sure the people you lead can answer “Oui” too.


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